Insurers: No hike in IP premiums for the first year

A nurse and a patient in Class B1 ward at Changi General Hospital.
PHOTO: Insurers: No hike in IP premiums for the first year

There will be no premium increases to the top-up portion of Integrated Shield Plans (IP) that cover class B1 to A public hospital wards, for a period of one year after the implementation of MediShield Life.

Khoo Kah Siang, president of the Life Insurance Association, gave this assurance yesterday amid concerns over the impact of MediShield Life on IP premiums.

This commitment by five IP insurers is meant to allow a "smooth transition" into the universal health-care scheme, said Dr Khoo.

"Thereafter, IP insurers will re-evaluate and re-assess plans based on actual experience (such as claims), to ensure that top-up benefits remain relevant in meeting the evolving needs of Singapore residents."

He added that current class B1 plans are also under review, as part of deliberations to develop a standardised IP for class B1 coverage.

While these moves are expected to be welcomed by Members of Parliament, there remains the call for better regulation of IP insurers.

Addressing this, Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said in Parliament yesterday that the Government will study the MediShield Life Review Committee's suggestion to strengthen the current regulatory and accountability framework for IP insurers.

However, he noted that one should not over-regulate IPs, lest this should limit choice or result in higher premiums for policyholders.

Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor brought up the point that many Singaporeans have only a "very rudimentary understanding" of the country's health-care financing system, and this lack of understanding extends to IPs.

She said many realise that premiums go up with age in their silver years only at the point when the Medisave withdrawal limit becomes insufficient to support premiums, leading to the need to fork out cash.

"A better understanding of how MediShield Life and IPs work is needed, in order to help Singaporeans make informed decisions about their health-care insurance," she said.

Dr Khor added that private insurers should take a more active role to explain details about MediShield Life to their clients, such as how it works together with their IPs.

"(The Ministry of Health) will work with the IP insurers to ensure responsible marketing of their products, including proper disclosure," she said.

Another topic of debate in Parliament was portable insurance schemes, where MPs such as Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC) asked if there could be further grants and incentives for employers who adopt it.

In response, Mr Gan reiterated that the Government encourages employers and unions to work together to move towards portable medical benefits, and tap on MediShield Life's national risk-pool to provide lifetime medical coverage for workers beyond retirement.

The Government has formed a tripartite work group, with the Singapore National Employers Federation and the National Trades Union Congress, to study the issue and is considering strengthening incentives.

At present, companies which provide such benefits get an additional 1 per cent tax reduction on employee remuneration.

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