Caring for babies with birth defects

SINGAPORE - The Ministry of Health is not rejecting the idea of using MediShield to cover babies born with neonatal problems or congenital defects. Rather, it wants it to be part of a bigger package on marriage and parenthood.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said yesterday that the ministry is, in principle, in favour of helping families pay for children's health-care costs.

But since this is now part of the Singapore Conversation, he added: "It is important for us to not look at these measures in isolation. We should look at it in a more comprehensive way."

He said the solution for the care of children born with medical problems could be a combination of MediShield and Medisave, or something else altogether.

He assured young couples planning to have children that such discussions should not take too long: "There are areas of the Conversation which could have an early harvest.

"The committee will discuss this quite soon and we hope we will come up with a decision quite shortly."

In 2010, about 9,000 babies were hospitalised for congenital and neonatal conditions in subsidised wards at public hospitals. Even though they were in B2 or C class wards, some 700 had bills that came to more than $5,000.

This is of concern to many would-be parents, and the idea of including such babies in the national health insurance scheme has come up several times over the past years.

Mr Gan said while many were supportive during feedback sessions on changes to be made to MediShield, some feared it might skew the behaviour of parents once they knew the bulk of the bill would be taken care of by insurance - leading to higher costs.

He added that how such children should be cared for is related to "what kind of Singapore we want to have in future".

The Prime Minister has suggested having Medisave accounts for every baby born, with the Government contributing.

What MediShield changes mean

What MediShield changes mean

What does higher deductibles mean?

It means that you will have to pay more before insurance kicks in. If you are a C-class patient, you will have to pay the first $1,500 before you can make a claim.

But this amount is cumulative, so it could come from more than one hospital stay during the insurance year.

I haven't made any claims so why do I have to pay higher premiums?

Everyone in the same age band pays the same premium. Premiums have to go up so there is enough to meet the high claims by others.

Insurance is risk-pooling. Everyone joins when they are healthy but, as the years go by, those who are well help those who are sick pay their big hospital bills.

Why are psychiatric care claims limited to 35 days a year?

The Ministry of Health says this is to encourage patients who are well to be discharged promptly.

Since this is a new inclusion, the limits may be reviewed as it gains experience with such claims.

I'm getting psychiatric treatment. Will MediShield cover my bills only after March?

No, MediShield will not cover you for your mental illness since it was diagnosed before next March.

Only those who are diagnosed after that date will be covered.

I'm 87 and was covered by MediShield till I exceeded the maximum coverage age of 85. Since then, I've been diagnosed with a medical problem. Can I rejoin, now that coverage has been extended to age 90?

Yes, you can. So long as you were with MediShield till you were 85, the insurance will cover you for any medical conditions you suffer from.

I'm 78 and have never been covered by MediShield. Can I join?

Yes, you can. But if you have a pre-existing disease such as a heart problem, the insurance will not cover you for treatments related to that.

However, should you be hit by some other illness, such as cancer, you will be covered.

Why does MediShield not cover people older than 90?

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said this is because there are not many people over that age.

Since MediShield is based on risk-pooling by people in similar age bands, with too few people in that age group it becomes ineffective.