MediShield Life to reflect 'fairness and compassion'

Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong.
PHOTO: MediShield Life to reflect 'fairness and compassion'

SINGAPORE - People with pre-existing medical conditions will be treated in a "fair and compassionate" way when MediShield Life kicks in, promised Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

They will pay premiums that are 30 per cent higher, for 10 years.

Such conditions are those likely to be life-threatening or "have high risk of future complications or recurrence, and therefore may require prolonged treatment".

Mr Gan was speaking in Parliament during the debate of the MediShield Life Scheme Bill, which was passed at the end of the session.

In his opening speech, he said the Health Ministry is reviewing the list of serious pre-existing conditions with help from specialists. It will disclose information on the broad categories of these ailments later. Those who have to pay higher premiums will be informed before MediShield Life starts.

During the debate, several MPs sought clarification on who will have to pay higher premiums.

Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) asked if those with intellectual disabilities or other developmental disorders would incur higher premiums.

"Many of them... may experience challenges in schools and at workplaces that relate to their ability to learn, socialise and be included," she said.

"But physically - health-wise - these persons may not be at risk of requiring more medical treatment or hospitalisation than the rest of the population."

In response, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said that those who did not require prolonged hospitalisation or expensive outpatient treatments would not have to pay extra.

"In other words, the mere existence of autism, on its own, is not the basis for imposing additional premiums," he said.

Workers' Party MP Lee Li Lian (Punggol East) and Nominated MP Chia Yong Yong asked if the 30 per cent extra premium would vary witha person's condition.

For the sake of simplicity, said Dr Lam, there is only one rate, which will be applied to those with serious pre-existing conditions. He said such conditions could include stroke, cancer, kidney failure and heart disease.

He added that MediShield Life will be less stringent than private insurance in providing coverage for minor medical conditions.

"Less severe conditions such as pre-cancer, well-managed hypertension and diabetes with no complications will not be subject to additional premiums," he said.

In his reply to Dr Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC), he said those with pre-existing HIV/Aids - treatment for which is not covered under MediShield - will receive coverage under MediShield Life but will pay a higher premium.

Dr Lam said people with medical conditions covered by MediShield will not pay anything extra.

This article was first published on January 30, 2015.
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