How far will the proposed new MediShield Life scheme address concerns about rising healthcare costs in an ageing population? What other healthcare financing issues remain to be tackled?
Ruder Finn Asia
THE key healthcare challenges today relate largely to expanding capacity and developing a system to meet the demands of an ageing population. The new MediShield Life Scheme, keeping premiums affordable for all Singaporeans, shows that the government is taking on more of the risks and the necessary costs of the increase in healthcare capacity and manpower. This is a good first step and should lead to consideration of other healthcare financing issues. Premiums need to be affordable and still fully payable within Medisave withdrawal limits and contributions.
The frail and disabled elderly and their caregivers need financial relief for the costs of hospitalisation and outpatient treatment. The costs involved in caring for the elderly who may require assistance with their daily activities need to be addressed. The current support for long-term care is mainly through means-tested subsidies and this may not be an accurate reflection of current needs. Middle-income families may be stretched, especially if there are several dependants requiring financial aid.
WE applaud the new MediShield Life scheme as it certainly addresses the rising healthcare costs in an increasingly ageing population. These new proposals answer the needs of the elderly and the financially dependent. Perhaps we can also rethink the way we look at medical assistance here in Singapore.
Suggestions would be to allow earlier withdrawals of the funds for various medical needs which also include outpatient treatments.
While priority would be for the elderly, we should consider letting younger Singaporeans have the option to also use their available funds, perhaps by implementing internal limits to the amount they can use. The costs of medical care are rising and it is a real concern for many Singaporeans, young and old. Several discussions have taken place and it is heartening to note that this is a priority for the Singapore government.
Best World International Ltd
THE proposed MediShield Life scheme will go very far in protecting a majority of Singaporeans against large medical bills. They will also have peace of mind if they live beyond the age of 90. Nevertheless, there are some who may be concerned about the cash payment for the premiums, especially those who do not have a CPF account. Allowing their family members to buy MediShield Life for them can help to alleviate their concerns. While the scheme is highly beneficial, it does not cover health screening.
As early detection and treatment can save lives and prevent big medical bills in the future, perhaps the government can consider allowing Singaporeans to use their Medisave funds for this purpose. Alternatively, insurers can give rebates in the form of health screening vouchers to those who do not make any claim. This will not only help to reduce costs but also encourage Singaporeans to take good care of their health.
Khoo Kah Siang
Great Eastern Life
GREAT Eastern supports the recommendations by the MediShield Life Review Committee which provide greater protection for all Singaporeans. We look forward to working closely with the government, the health sector and other stakeholders to bridge the protection gap.
The Integrated Shield Plan (IP) is a good complement to MediShield Life for those who want enhanced benefits such as coverage for stays in Class A/B1 of restructured hospitals or wards in private hospitals.
Although it is premature at this juncture to comment on specifics, Great Eastern is committed to ensuring that our IP plan remains competitively priced and affordable for all.
It is worth noting that premium rates are calculated based on future consumption trends, medical inflation rate and past claims experience. The pricing of IP plans is predominantly driven by the costs of medical healthcare, which include doctors' charges, hospital charges and drug fees, all of which are beyond what insurers alone can effectively control.
In this regard, greater public awareness and education is needed that the public has a key role to play. Each of us must take personal charge of our health and take personal responsibility to reduce over-consumption of healthcare services so that costs can be controlled. It is also important to start saving up early for future healthcare needs.
Now is also an opportune time to review the utilisation of all forms of medical facilities and services, as well as look at innovative models in healthcare provision, to enhance system efficiency and ensure that overall medical cost inflation is well contained.
Ultimately, as responsible insurers, we need to look at how best to contain costs to make IP plans affordable in the long run as well as provide value-added services to customers to further differentiate IP plans from the basic MediShield Life.