Call for more protection from big hospital bills

SINGAPORE - The MediShield Life review committee Saturday called for enhanced benefits to better protect Singaporeans from their biggest worry - large hospital bills.

Its preliminary recommendations include removing the $300,000 lifetime cap on payouts - which would mean that those with serious conditions will remain covered for life.

In addition, daily claim limits for normal and intensive care unit wards should be raised by 33 to 55 per cent, with claim limits for some outpatient cancer treatments also to rise.

In another key recommendation, the committee urged the Government to pay the bulk of the additional costs of covering those with pre-existing conditions and currently uninsured.

It said this group should not be treated separately despite its expected higher claims. Instead MediShield Life should be a "collective responsibility", with the entire cost split between the Government, existing policyholders and those currently uninsured.

But given that the transition to universal coverage next year is a one-off and the "great diversity of views" on how much more existing policyholders should pay, the Government should absorb the lion's share, committee chairman Bobby Chin said.

MediShield Life, to be launched next year, is an upgrade of the national medical insurance scheme MediShield. It will cover all Singaporeans regardless of age or pre-existing conditions.

The 11-member committee said MediShield Life's focus should remain on large hospital bills, as these are what "most concern" people here.

Under its proposals, which include halving co-insurance rates, an estimated 10,000 more Class B2 and Class C ward patients will pay under $3,000 for in-patient bills.

The Health Ministry said on Saturday it supported the recommendation to halve co-insurance rates but noted that the proposals "will involve higher payouts, which in turn require higher premiums".

The proposals will now be submitted to the Government so that premium increases can be estimated. "We will then have to look at balancing them with the issue of affordability," Mr Chin said.

On her Facebook page, Moulmein-Kallang GRC MP Denise Phua welcomed the uninsured being "brought under the umbrella" but said the lifting of the lifetime cap is "something to mull over".

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