SINGAPORE - A panel of health-care, finance and insurance professionals as well as trade unionists and grassroots members will examine the key issues involved in introducing MediShield Life, the national insurance scheme that aims to cover everyone for life.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong is expecting good input from them as MediShield Life signals a major shift in policy, from treating health costs as purely an individual responsibility to one of collective responsibility.
"It's important for us to discuss this very thoroughly and very carefully so that we can address all the issues and look into all the concerns of Singaporeans," he said.
The panel will be led by senior private sector accountant Bobby Chin, a member of the Council of Presidential Advisers.
He said on Saturday: "I look forward to hearing the views of Singaporeans from all walks of life as the committee embarks on its review over the next six months."
Top of the list of issues it must consider is how to ensure adequate protection for all while keeping premiums affordable. Mr Gan said there will be a cost to bringing everyone, especially those who already have medical conditions, into the scheme.
The committee will have to look at whether those already ill should pay more, and if so, how much more? And, what role can the Government play to keep premiums affordable?
It will also study how to implement pre-funding for younger people, who will pay more when they are young so that their premiums can remain manageable as they age.
The panel can recommend improvements, but mind the impact on premiums.
It will comprise about 10 members of diverse backgrounds, who will be named at a press conference on Friday. The Health Ministry hopes to tap on their network of contacts, said Mr Gan.
Mr Chin said he will talk more about his panel's composition and plans after the members are appointed. The existing MediShield scheme covers 92 per cent of people. In March, it was extended from an upper age limit of 85 to 90. When introduced in 2015, MediShield Life will be compulsory for all Singaporeans and permanent residents.
Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the 103rd anniversary celebrations of the Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital on Saturday, Mr Gan said the Government has committed to helping the lower-middle-income group and others who cannot afford to pay premiums for the insurance.
He said the panel will have to define this group, find out what help they need and suggest ways to make sure that help is available for them.
He stressed that MediShield Life's focus will remain large hospital bills.
"People must understand that the more it tries to cover, the higher the premiums will be. Coverage should target areas people need most protection for, primarily catastrophic bills, so that we can keep premiums affordable yet provide the most effective coverage," he said.
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