The proposed MediShield Life scheme will "provide far better protection against large bills", said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.
In a post on Facebook yesterday, Mr Wong said he was glad with the recommendations by the MediShield Life Committee, adding that he had helped to implement the first MediShield reform in 2004 as a civil servant.
The scheme was then "losing its effectiveness" - for patients with large hospital bills, MediShield covered only about 40 per cent of the bill.
After public consultations, the Government decided to increase payouts while keeping the monthly premium increase to about $10.
Over time, and with subsequent adjustments, the protection offered by MediShield improved, he wrote.
Mr Wong said he saw the benefits last year when his father suffered a sudden heart attack.
His father had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery and stayed in the hospital for some time. The bill came up to more than $20,000. Insurance covered more than 70 per cent of it while the rest was paid through Medisave and with cash.
"This was better than the old MediShield but it could still have been better," said Mr Wong.
Earlier this month, the Government announced details about MediShield Life - an updated universal health plan which improves on the existing MediShield scheme by lowering out-of-pocket medical expenses due to reduced co-payment rates. The scheme extends coverage for life and covers those with pre-existing conditions.
Mr Wong said premiums can be kept affordable because MediShield Life is a universal scheme which every Singaporean is part of.
"This is important because all of us must bear the responsibility to join the insurance risk pool. It represents a commitment to social solidarity, so that we all chip in to help pay for the health-care needs of the sick," he said.
Employers also contribute with a 1 per cent increase in employer Medisave contributions that will help cover premiums.
The Government is also providing premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups for the pioneer generation for life. Lower- to middle-income households will also benefit from premium subsidies.
Yesterday, at an appreciation dinner for 300 seniors aged 65 and above, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean also spoke about MediShield Life. He said it will give pioneers better peace of mind about their health-care bills and will also ease the burden of caregivers and family members.
He told the audience that MediShield Life premiums would be lower than their current MediShield premiums.
Pioneers will also be able to get annual Medisave top-ups from next month to help pay for these premiums, he said at the event held at Pasir Ris Elias Community Club.
He gave the example of a pioneer in his early 80s who pays $1,123 a year for his MediShield premiums.
"With MediShield Life, his premium is less than $600 a year. He will receive a Medisave top-up of $800 every year, for life, which can more than pay for his MediShield Life premium," said DPM Teo.
"The important message for our pioneers is not all the details but that they should actually worry less because we want them to enjoy their silver years with fewer worries. That's really the main message we want to put across," he said.
Many of the things are taken care of automatically. For instance, no application is required to enrol into MediShield Life, he added.
About 30 grassroots leaders went around to explain to seniors what the changes would mean for them.
After speaking to residents, Mr Teo said they understood the most important thing is that their health care will be better taken care of.
Retired taxi driver Kew Vian Shak, 75, said he is clearer about how the scheme works. "I now know that older people like myself have less to worry about when it comes to medical expenses."
This article was first published on Jun 15, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.