She's sick but hasn't seen doctor in 10 years

PHOTO: She's sick but hasn't seen doctor in 10 years

People like housewife Tan Miu Muay could well be who Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam had in mind when he spoke about the Government's emphasis on a fair and inclusive society.

She's poor. She's sick. She has five school-going children.

And because she hasn't seen a doctor in 10 years - she fears she cannot pay her medical bills - she has only a vague idea of what ails her.

The 41-year-old is a needy Singaporean who hasn't been forgotten in this year's Budget, which was announced yesterday.

She will benefit from a new GST voucher scheme, a permanent system of offsets to help lower-income Singaporean households.

Her children will also benefit indirectly from top-ups to various funds which help with education and social support.

Madam Tan has been living in a two-room rental flat on Lorong Lew Lian for the last 10 years.

She has five sons, aged seven to 17. Her husband, Mr Chua Chue Po, 40, is a Malaysian who is a permanent resident here. He earns $1,200 a month moulding cornices.

Their monthly rent is under $200.

Madam Tan, who left school after Primary 6 and can't read or write, has been having trouble with her liver since she was 28.

She said: "The last time I went to see a doctor 10 years ago he said that there were some levels in my liver which were very high."

Liver operation

She said she had an operation on her liver in 1998, and was in and out of hospital for three years after that.

She eventually discharged herself even though she needed further treatment because she was afraid of incurring further medical costs.

"I had help from a medical social worker. But I was afraid that I could not pay if I continued to seek treatment.

"So now I just tong ('endure' in Hokkien)."

Since then, Madam Tan has foregone medication. She often breaks into cold sweat and feels cold even when the room temperature is normal.

She suspects she also has low blood pressure because she often feels weak and tired, and cannot stand for more than 30 minutes at a stretch.

"I thought of getting a job, but all the jobs I qualify for are strenuous and I cannot do them."

Her days are spent doing household chores - mostly while she is seated - and looking after her children.

Yesterday, the new measures brought some relief. She was especially pleased with the Government's moves to make health care more affordable.

"I hope health care will be cheaper, so I can find out what is wrong with me.

"Right now, the thought of hospitals and clinics scares me. I don't know who can help me."

What are the health care changes under Budget 2012?

By 2020...

>> Number of beds in acute-care hospitals to increase by 1,900 – or about 30 per cent. >>  Number of beds in community hospitals to increase by 1,800 – more than 100 per cent. >>  Two more community hospitals in Outram and Seng Kang.

Enhanced subsidies

>> In community hospitals, low-income patients will receive 75 per cent government subsidy. Patients above the median income to receive 20 to 50 per cent subsidy. They did not qualify for subsidies previously. >>  Subsidies for nursing homes, day care and rehabilitation facilities, and home-based care packages will be raised. About 80 per cent of elderly will qualify. GST will be fully absorbed for subsidised patients under long-term care.

Enhanced Medishield

>> Coverage extended from age 85 to 90. >>  One-off Medisave top-up to meet increase in premiums. Those aged under 40 will receive $50; aged 41 to 50, $100; aged 51 to 60, $200; aged 61 to 75, $300; and those aged above 76 will receive $400.

Help for Mrs Tan

New moves to offset GST

1. Cash component

Given to Singaporeans whose incomes fall within the bottom 40 per cent, and who live in HDB flats, or the bottom 15 per cent of private properties, based on assessable income and the annual value of their homes. They can expect to receive this from August.

2. MEDISAVE Top-up

Up to $450. This will go to about 85 per cent of Singaporeans aged 65 and above from August.


Between $180 and $260 for all HDB households to help directly offset their monthly utilities bills. To be given out in January and July each year, from July this year. Those who qualify for this scheme will receive a letter in July.

How Madam Tan's family will benefit from the GST VOUCHERS

Estimated GST they pay in a year: $810

But Madam Tan will get: Cash: $250 Medisave: $0 U-Save: $260 Effect: The GST voucher scheme will offset more than half of the GST incurred by her family in a year.

Other ways she may benefit:

>> More affordable health care >>  More affordability in long-term care >>  Top-ups to Medifund, an endowment fund set up by the Government to help needy Singaporeans who can’t pay for their medical expenses.

Help for Madam Tan's children

More support for children from low-income families:

>> Pre-school subsidies will be extended. A family of five, with three children, will now pay $20 for each child in child care compared to $110 previously. >>  More students will benefit from the Education Ministry’s financial assistance scheme. The qualifying household income ceiling will be raised to $2,500 a month from $1,500. >>  About 40,000 more students will be subsidised for school fees, uniforms and textbooks, and receive a 75 per cent subsidy on their exam fees.

Top-ups for school advisory and management committees:

>> To help them introduce new schemes in school, like transport assistance for students.

Enhanced student-care fee assistance scheme:

>> Subsidies for student care will be extended to families with up to $3,500 in monthly household income. Currently, only families earning $2,500 or less qualify. A family under this scheme will typically see the amount they pay for student care reduced from $200 to $80 per month.


>> $200 million to EduSave Endowment Fund to let children enjoy meaningful enrichment programmes. >>  $200 million to ComCare Endowment Fund to support needy families. >>  $5 million to self-help groups and $5 million the CCC ComCare Fund.

Read more on changes under Budget 2012.

This article was first published in The New Paper.