With our rapidly ageing population, chronic diseases associated with old age have become prevalent.
Primary health care is key in maintaining meaningful and productive longevity.
The Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) has shifted some of the patient load from busy polyclinics to the private sector, effectively subsidising patients' medical fees regardless of whether they choose polyclinics or private practitioners.
Most patients can easily access general practitioners (GPs). Mr Ng Kum Leng, who wrote about his difficulties getting to polyclinics and hospitals, could persuade his GP to enlist in Chas ("Ease access to health-care facilities for seniors"; last Friday), just like how many of my GP friends and I were convinced to do so by our patients.
Doctors on the scheme find it easy to administer, the Government a good paymaster, and the scheme mutually beneficial to patients and themselves.
Almost all chronic conditions can be handled in private clinics just as well as they would be in polyclinics.
Anecdotally, the major problem with Chas is that patients with three or more chronic diseases find the subsidies insufficient, these being capped at $480 each year.
It would be helpful if families could pool their Chas entitlements, so unused benefits that healthy members are entitled to can be utilised by the sickly ones.
This is consistent with the current approach to Medisave, which allows family members to use their funds to pay for their family members' medical fees.
Letter from Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)
This article was published on April 15 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.