Relief for those with pre-existing illnesses

Mr Lee Sim Booy, 73, pays $900 a month for kidney dialysis. The retiree will be able to claim $1,000 a month in insurance payouts with the launch of MediShield Life next year.
PHOTO: Relief for those with pre-existing illnesses

SINGAPORE - Retiree Lee Sim Booy has been on dialysis for decades, since a reverse flow of urine damaged his kidneys in 1984.

Because of this serious illness, he was not able to join the national medical insurance, MediShield, when it was launched in 1990.

The widower, 73, goes for dialysis three times a week at the Kidney Dialysis Foundation (KDF) centre at Bishan, and pays a subsidised rate of about $900 a month.

He has not been working since he retired at the age of 55 in 1997.

He said: "The dialysis is a strain on me as I have to dig into my savings and rely on the allowance given by my son who lives with me."

Mr Lee's condition worsened earlier this year and he has not been able to walk well since April.

He now needs a live-in maid - which has added to his financial burden. He said he might soon have to sell his home and move into a rented flat.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for Mr Lee, with the launch of MediShield Life at the end of next year.

The extension of the insurance to cover everyone, sick or healthy, for as long as they live, means that he will be able to claim $1,000 a month in insurance payouts.

Because he has a pre-existing disease, he will need to pay the "penalty premium" - or 30 per cent more than the normal premium - for the first 10 years.

But as he is part of the pioneer generation, Mr Lee will get both a permanent premium subsidy as well as Medisave top-ups that should take care of a large part of the premiums he will have to pay.

If he also qualifies for the permanent subsidy, which will be given to about two-thirds of the population, it will ease his financial burden further.

Details of how much he will get in subsidies will be released later.

I am not covered by MediShield. I have kept myself healthy all these years. Do I still have to pay the additional 30 per cent premium under the MediShield Life scheme?

No. The 30 per cent top-up in premiums for 10 years applies only to people with pre-existing diseases that would exclude them from full coverage.

You can join MediShield today, or MediShield Life when it starts at the end of next year as a healthy individual paying the normal premium rate.

However, if you wait till MediShield Life is launched, and you are unfortunate to develop a medical condition before the end of next year that would result in exclusion, then you would be liable for that 30 per cent additional premium.

It might be a good idea to join MediShield today to avoid such a possibility.

I am a pensioner with full lifelong medical benefits. I need to pay only 20 per cent of the ward charges should I be hospitalised and I get full reimbursement for treatment at polyclinics. Will I be better off with MediShield Life than with the current medical benefits that I am entitled to?

MediShield Life applies to everyone, including those who receive benefits from their employers such as pensioners.

The Government has indicated that it will study the issue carefully together with the unions, and ensure that pensioners will not be adversely affected with the introduction of MediShield Life.

As MediShield Life is for critical illness, it will not cover the cost of polyclinic treatments. However, your current coverage for this should not be affected.

I'm a permanent resident. Will MediShield Life be compulsory for me?

Yes, it will be compulsory for all Singaporeans and permanent residents.

salma@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on June 19, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.