MediShield Life panel gives first review update

SINGAPORE - The MediShield Life Review Committee said it will call on the Government to help the elderly and low-wage earners pay the premiums for Singapore's next-generation national insurance scheme.

It also revealed that the next phase of its work will focus on three aspects of MediShield Life, including how to make sure the healthy are not unfairly taxed to cover those currently uninsured, either due to their old age or existing diseases.

MediShield Life, an upgrade on the current MediShield, will cover all Singaporeans, regardless of their age or health, when it is launched next year.

Since being set up almost three months ago, the committee tasked with shaping the new scheme has already been involved in 14 focus group discussions involving 500 people from all walks of life.

During the committee's first update of its work, chairman Bobby Chin revealed it heard a "very strong call" during the discussions for the Government to chip in with premiums for the elderly and lower-income group.

He said the committee will be raising this point with the Government, and will urge it to "support premiums for the elderly and lower-income group".

While MediShield Life premiums are expected to be higher than MediShield's, the increase will depend on how far benefits are expanded and the limits on how much can be claimed.

This task of ensuring that MediShield Life will take care of people's health needs and yet be affordable has been given to a sub-committee led by Dr Tan See Leng, group chief executive officer of Parkway Pantai.

A second sub-committee, led by Changi General Hospital chief executive officer Lee Chien Earn, will study how every Singaporean can be brought under the Medishield Life.

This includes people who are uninsured, such as those past the insurable age and those with existing diseases which exclude them from coverage, as well as new citizens. Some in these group could make claims from the start.

One question Dr Lee's sub-committee will have to look into is who - the new entrants, the Government or the rest of society - should pay for these claims, and how should cost-sharing be apportioned.

The third sub-committee, led by Mrs Hauw Soo Hoon, operating partner of venture capital firm iGlobe Partners, will see if there is a need to standardise the benefits and premiums offered by different private integrated insurance plans, which enhances the coverage currently offered by Medishield.

Mrs Hauw said her sub-committee has already asked insurers providing integrated plans if they will extend coverage to reflect MediShield Life's universal scope.

For instance, some integrated plan policy-holders are not covered for certain pre-existing conditions but these will come under MediShield Life.

Other concerns were also raised during the feedback sessions. Ms Diana Chia, president of the National Trades Union Congress, said that while union members were generally supportive, they were worried about over-insuring. That is because they are already insured by their company, yet need to be part of MediShield Life.

Some people have said they do not want to be insured by MediShield Life. To this, Mr Chin said "no", everyone will be, regardless of choice.

Mr Patrick Lee, chairman of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital, said during the Mandarin focus group discussions, people expressed worries that premiums might be too high, especially for families who have just one breadwinner.

The committee's next update will come in one to two months' time.

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