SINGAPORE - Universal health insurance became a reality yesterday when MPs passed the MediShield Life Scheme Bill after hours of rigorous debate in Parliament.
This health-care safety net, which makes sure no one gets left behind, is the "embodiment of Singaporeans' aspiration for a more inclusive, caring and progressive society", said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong.
This is why those with pre-existing conditions are brought under the new scheme, why help is made more accessible to the vulnerable and the needy, and why those who can afford to pay the premiums will be made to, Mr Gan added.
Although MPs showed strong support for the Bill, they raised a number of issues and clarifications to the scheme.
One such concern that surfaced during the debate was premium affordability.
MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC Chia Shi-Lu asked if transitional subsidies - which will ease Singaporeans into the new premiums for the first four years - could be increased.
To ensure a smoother transition, Mr Gan yesterday announced increased transitional subsidies for Singaporeans for the first two years.
Those whose net premiums go up after MediShield Life kicks in will get a 90 per cent subsidy in the first year and a 70 per cent subsidy in the second, he said.
This means that the maximum premium increase for all Singaporeans in the first year will be less than $3 a month. For the third and fourth years, however, the subsidy rates of 40 per cent and 20 per cent will remain unchanged.
The transitional subsidies will be phased out in the fifth year, but lower- and middle-income households will continue to get permanent premium subsidies, Mr Gan said.
This article was first published on January 30, 2015.
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