SINGAPORE - The road to the good life today was paved with the work and sacrifice of a unique generation of Singaporeans.
Now mostly retired and in their late 60s, Singapore must show its gratitude and care for them.
How? By ensuring they never have to worry about health-care cost in their golden years.
Calling them "special", Mr Lee said: "(Paving the way) was their goal, they achieved it, and I think we should know that and we should be grateful to them."
Emphasising the need to ensure the pioneer generation is well taken care of, he introduced the Pioneer Generation Package, which will help pay for their premiums under MediShield Life.
"I think we owe it to them," he said.
The current basic medical insurance, MediShield, will undergo a revamp to become MediShield Life.
Coverage was previously available only up to the age of 90 and to those with no pre-existing medical conditions.
The new MediShield Life will "cover people for life".
"If you don't stop at 90, the MediShield Life will not stop at 90. So, don't worry. It will cover old people," Mr Lee assured in his rally speech.
"It will cover everybody, every Singaporean - old ones, young ones, those newly born. Even those who are now outside the MediShield network, we will bring them back in," he added.
He was referring to the eight per cent of Singaporeans who had dropped out or were no longer eligible.
But with better coverage for big hospital bills comes the need to pay more for the MediShield Life premiums to "break even", Mr Lee said.
For those who cannot afford the premiums, the Government will help.
Medisave contributions will also have to go up.
"We need to save more and that will stand us in good stead, because one day we will all grow old, if we're lucky," Mr Lee explained.
The increase in contributions will happen over time, "as and when our economic conditions permit".
The specifics will be decided on only after careful discussion, but "the direction is quite clear", he said firmly.
Although the general framework is ready, more time is also needed to revamp MediShield. Mr Lee wants more public consultation before finalising it.
"This is a very, very major step. We thought about it long and hard. We've argued it. We've decided we need to do it," he said.
"But how exactly to design the scheme, I think, we need to take some more time and we need to consult, get views."
Although Government subsidies will continue to increase, Mr Lee reminded Singaporeans to also "take personal responsibility" in keeping fit - the best way to drive health-care costs down - and in financing.
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