SINGAPORE - We thank Mr Sia Cheong Yew ("Regulator should endorse premium increase proposals"; last Saturday) and Mr Kwong San Wan ("Lack of oversight of private health insurance premiums"; Forum Online, Tuesday) for their letters commenting on increases in their health insurance premiums. Both suggested greater regulatory oversight of premium pricing.
As Mr Sia rightly pointed out, the premium revisions were made to keep pace with enhanced benefits and rising medical costs.
Private Shield plans like IncomeShield sit on top of MediShield, and Shield plan premium increases are driven in part by MediShield premium increases.
According to the Health Ministry, since the last MediShield revision in 2008, the number of claims per policyholder has increased by 9 per cent per year while the average payout per claim has risen by 12 per cent per year.
For the same reasons, rider premiums also needed to be revised.
For Mr Sia, the change in his age band, upon the renewal of his policy, was the main cause of his premium increase. We explained this in a letter to him last week.
We share his concern that premium increases have an impact on the lower-income group and retirees, and that is one reason NTUC Income has a range of Shield plans catering to customers' differing needs.
Mr Sia currently holds one of the highest Shield plans, Enhanced IncomeShield (Advantage). He has the option of downgrading to a lower plan if he is willing to downgrade his ward preference.
He also holds the highest rider plan, the Plus Rider, and may like to consider opting for the Assist Rider at a lower premium rate.
In Mr Kwong's case, NTUC Income's recent move to migrate IncomeShield MA plan to IncomeShield Plan A was made in response to feedback from our policyholders under the plan to increase their medical coverage.
With this upgrade, which we provided without underwriting, policyholders like Mr Kwong can enjoy higher limits, additional benefits such as pre- and post-hospitalisation treatment, inpatient psychiatric treatment and prosthesis benefits.
As in the case of Mr Sia, Mr Kwong's higher premium was also driven in part by the increase in MediShield premiums and better benefits.
All our policyholders have the choice of downgrading to lower plans, an option Mr Kwong has accepted.
NTUC Income strives to keep premium rates affordable and sustainable to meet the needs of all IncomeShield policyholders over the long term.
Lau Sok Hoon (Ms)
Group & Health Division
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