SINGAPORE - Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday reassured Singaporeans that they do not need to worry about being unable to afford the projected increase in premiums for the new MediShield Life plan.
He said the 1 percentage point increase in employer contribution to Medisave will be enough to offset the rise in premiums for most upper middle-income families.
Middle- and lower-income families will also have no problems as they will get permanent government subsidies.
And for anyone else who may "fall through the cracks", the Government will work out a special scheme to help them, he promised.
MediShield Life is a compulsory scheme that will provide medical insurance for everyone for life - including those already sick - when it starts at the end of next year.
Details of the scheme's enhanced benefits and wider coverage were announced by the MediShield Life Review Committee last Thursday, but there has been no news yet on exactly how much the premiums will cost.
Yesterday, Mr Gan gave some indication, saying that for those earning at least $5,000 - the income cap for calculating Central Provident Fund contributions - the additional 1 percentage point Medisave contribution will provide $600 a year. This will be enough to cover the increase in premiums for most families in that income bracket, he said.
Last Thursday, it was announced that there will be permanent subsidies for two out of three households, and transitional subsidies for everyone for four years. The transitional subsidy starts at 80 per cent of the premium increase in the first year, dropping to 60 per cent, 40 per cent and 20 per cent over the following four years.
"Because this is a very major shift in the health-care financing framework, the Government is committed to providing sufficient help and support," said Mr Gan, who spoke on the sidelines of an event to celebrate World Blood Donor Day at Sentosa.
"The idea is to help as many people as we can."
Mr Gan also praised the review committee for its "very impactful" suggestions, such as the removal of the lifetime cap so people will not have to worry about running out of insurance coverage; raising the claims limit so patients can make larger claims; and reducing the co-payment so patients bear a smaller part of big bills.
He expressed his gratitude to the 11-member committee headed by former managing director of accounting giant KPMG, Mr Bobby Chin, who "burned the midnight oil" on many occasions to come up with recommendations that struck a balance between enhancing benefits and maintaining affordability.
The final report from the committee will be submitted to the Government at the end of this month and be debated in Parliament next month.
The minister noted it is important for the economy to continue growing strongly so that there will be enough resources to provide these MediShield Life subsidies.
As to whether people should give up their Integrated Shield plans - which cover more than standard subsidised care and cost more - the minister said people will have to make that decision carefully.
He added: "They will have to consider the cost of coverage and the additional premiums, not just when they are young, but... when they get older."
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