HEALTH Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday assured Singaporeans with annual home values above $21,000 that they will be able to apply for additional help if they struggle to cope with increased MediShield Life premiums.
About a fifth of all properties here are estimated to have annual home values (AV) - the amount an owner would get in a year if he were to let out the property - over this figure.
Mr Gan has clarified that this group will be eligible for a transitional subsidy to help them cope with the rises. This will last for four years after MediShield Life is introduced next year.
However, they will not receive a permanent subsidy.
There had been complaints that the system penalises people who are asset-rich but cash-poor, such as those who have inherited property but have little income.
Mr Gan responded by saying that MediShield Life subsidies have been means-tested according to per capita household income and a person's asset value, as this makes best use of limited resources.
For two-thirds of households - who have a monthly per capita income of $2,600 or less - the Government will provide permanent MediShield Life subsidies, meanstested according to their income. They must stay in properties of annual values of $13,000 or less to qualify for the full subsidy. This would cover almost all in Housing Board flats, Mr Gan said.
Those with homes of annual values of $13,101 to $21,000 receive 10 percentage points less permanent subsidies than those in a similar income tier with homes of AVs of $13,000 and below.
But Mr Gan stressed that all Singapore citizens would receive transitional subsidies, to offset premium increases by 80, 60, 40 and 20 per cent respectively from 2015 to 2019.
For the asset-rich, cash-poor, "we have additional premium support that will consider their situation on a case-by-case basis," he said, and encouraged anyone needing help to write to the government. Remisier Teo Hoon Seng, 63, who lives in a property of over $21,000, wishes the scheme was "more equitable". People who have higher-value properties but really need help have to "deal with bureaucracy" in order to get it, he said.
Mr Gan spoke about the new national medical insurance scheme at a topping-out ceremony of a patient rehabilitation facility in Simei, to open in December.
Jointly managed by Changi General Hospital and St Andrew's Community Hospital, it will have 280 beds and provide rehabilitation to patients recovering from illnesses or accidents.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.