SINGAPORE - Part-time data entry worker Yuen Ho Wah was covered by MediShield when he found out he had colon cancer four years ago.
Along with Medisave, it has paid "most" of the $100,000 his treatment has cost since.
So when the MediShield Life Review Committee recommended recently that people with pre-existing conditions pay higher premiums to reflect their higher risks - namely an additional 30 per cent for ten years - Mr Yuen was worried.
"Will the extra 30 per cent under the upcoming MediShield Life be applicable to me?" asked the 66-year-old in an e-mail to The Straits Times. "I am already covered by MediShield and I hope I won't be paying much more extra in the new scheme."
However, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has assured people like him that, under the plans, they would not need to fork out an additional 30 per cent in premiums when MediShield Life starts late next year.
If your health condition developed only after you were insured under MediShield, the additional premium loading of 30 per cent would not apply, the MOH said, adding the extra amount would apply only to those "who are already in ill health before the start of their insurance coverage under MediShield or MediShield Life".
Currently, 93 per cent of Singaporeans are covered by MediShield.
The uninsured 7 per cent includes over-65s, low-income or jobless Singaporeans who cannot afford to pay the premiums and people who opted out because they have private insurance or are covered by their employers.
If these people are found to be in ill health before the compulsory MediShield Life kicks in next year, they would have to pay the extra 30 per cent.
The Government has promised subsidies and Medisave top-ups to help Singaporeans cope with higher premiums.
As he is part of the pioneer generation, Mr Yuen will receive further help. The Government will provide MediShield Life premium subsidies starting at 40 per cent for those aged 65 and above this year, namely the pioneer generation.
Those above 80 will have their premiums fully paid for by Medisave top-ups and subsidies.
Under MediShield Life, pioneers aged 65 to 79 who are fully insured under MediShield today will pay "about half of their current MediShield premiums after premium subsidies and Medisave top-ups", the MOH said.
"It's a relief to know that I don't have to pay the extra 30 per cent and pioneers like me will be getting more help," said Mr Yuen, whose condition is improving. "It gives us greater assurance in our retirement years."
If you have questions about MediShield Life, send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org along with your contact details, and we will do our best to answer them.
This article was first published on June 14, 2014.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.