ON THE AGENDA
The debate on the MediShield Life Scheme Bill lasted for about five hours yesterday, as Parliament convened for the second time this month.
Twenty-three Members of Parliament spoke on the mandatory, universal health insurance scheme, covering issues that ranged from how it could affect health-care costs to actions against people who refuse to pay their premiums.
At question time, National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed that a controversial commercial columbarium in Sengkang West will not be built.
Bigger transitional subsidy for two years
Singaporeans who will face higher premiums, even after receiving the various subsidies for MediShield Life, will get a further subsidy.
This transitional subsidy will be higher than the rates announced earlier, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced.
It will be 90 per cent, instead of 80 per cent in the first year; and 70 per cent, not 60 per cent, in the second year.
This means premiums will go up by less than $3 a month for citizens who currently get full coverage from MediShield.
Punishment reserved for 'wilful defaulters'
Only "wilful defaulters" need to worry about being taken to task for not paying their MediShield Life premiums, said Mr Gan.
He gave this assurance to MPs who had called for compassion in dealing with those who cannot afford to pay their premiums.
Penalty for defaulting
People with the means but who persist in not paying their premiums can be fined up to 17 per cent of their outstanding premiums.
They also have to pay any interest imposed on the outstanding sum. As well, they cannot leave the country until they pay what is owed.
Review to decide on serious conditions
A review is under way to determine which serious, pre-existing medical conditions would incur a higher premium - an extra 30 per cent for the first 10 years - under MediShield Life.
The focus is on potentially life-threatening illnesses, or conditions that have a high risk of future complications or recurrence.
How HDB awarded land meant for temple
Minister Khaw turned to Chinese opera to explain how a commercial company was mistakenly awarded land in Fernvale Link meant for religious use.
In the same way a school in the opera Butterfly Lovers had assumed only men went to school and so missed telltale signs that a student was a woman in disguise, the Housing Board had assumed only religious organisations would bid for the "temple land", and so did not realise a commercial entity had done so.
The HDB made the assumption because commercial companies without religious affiliations had never taken part in such tenders, he added.
Commercial versus incidental columbarium
While a commercial columbarium will not be built on a Fernvale Link plot, the temple that will eventually come up on it can have an incidental columbarium.
Such a columbarium is a service offered by churches or temples and is not for profit.
This article was first published on Jan 30, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.