SINGAPORE - Children of patients who receive subsidised treatment at private neighbourhood clinics will not be tangled in red tape when the government scheme is expanded next year.
They will be automatically included in the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) for people with chronic ailments.
From Jan 1, the scheme will be open to every family member in a household with a monthly per capita income of $1,800 or less.
Currently, it is only for those who are at least 40 years old in such a household. Those below 40, like young children, are not entitled to Chas.
But with the change in scope of the scheme from the individual to the family, the children and other family members in the same household can also enjoy the benefits of Chas.
They will automatically receive their blue or orange Chas cards from Dec 26, said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong in Parliament on Monday.
They need not apply for the card, which entitles them to subsidies at some 870 private general practitioners (GPs) and dentists. As of June 30, there are about 300,000 card-holders.
Families that want to join the scheme have to submit just one form, Mr Gan said, in response to Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC), who had asked how the process can be simplified.
Application forms can be obtained from public hospitals, polyclinics, community centres and clubs, as well as Community Development Councils. They can also be downloaded from the Chas website, www.chas.sg.
The minister also said his ministry will "work with grassroots organisations to reach out to needy households to help them apply for the scheme".
Card-holders can claim up to $480 a year for the treatment of chronic diseases, like diabetes. Some can also claim $18.50 each time for common conditions, like the cold.
Meanwhile, the Government is encouraging more private clinics to join the scheme through its Agency of Integrated Care. Currently, one in four GP clinics, or 560, has signed up.
"We have been engaging the private GPs to explain to them what the scheme is about and how they can benefit," said Mr Gan, in reply to Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) on the ministry's efforts to get more doctors into Chas.
The new MediShield Life also drew questions from MPs on Monday.
Mr Gan said he hopes to share more details of the health insurance during the debate on his ministry's budget early next year.
Later this year, a public consultation will be held on the scheme, which will provide lifelong basic health insurance for all as well as better cover for very large hospital bills.
Replying to a string of questions on it, Minister Gan Kim Yong reiterated that the process will take time.
Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam, Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang) and Mr Christopher de Souza (Holland-Bukit Timah) wanted more details on the changes.
Mr Gan said his ministry hopes to implement MediShield Life by 2015.
"This is quite a major shift and therefore, we will need to take a bit of time to work out the details and to consult the public," he added.
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