We thank Mr Francis Zhan ("Create new 'pioneer patient' category"; Forum Online, March 28), Mr Ng Chee Kheon ("Good to allow easier patient downgrades"; March 28) and Mr David Kwok Ng Kan ("Make it easier for private patients to downgrade"; March 26) for sharing their views on making downgrading to subsidised status easier for private patients.
Patients who are referred from polyclinics, as well as holders of the Health Assist card who are referred by general practitioners under the Community Health Assist Scheme, are eligible for subsidised care at specialist outpatient clinics.
This arrangement allows for better distribution of specialist resources, and more appropriate targeting of accompanying subsidies. When a patient asks to see a specialist of his choice, he would not be eligible for government subsidies.
Requests to switch from private to subsidised care are generally not allowed as such cases would lengthen the wait for other subsidised patients.
For private patients who start to face difficulties with their medical expenses and wish to switch to subsidised care, medical social workers are available at public hospitals to advise them.
Each request is assessed on a case-by-case basis, taking into careful consideration various factors, including financial means, bill sizes and medical conditions. These principles would likewise apply to members of our pioneer generation.
All Singaporeans who need to be admitted into a public hospital can choose to be admitted into subsidised ward classes, regardless of their existing status as a specialist outpatient clinic patient.
As our population ages, health-care needs and expenditure will inevitably grow. The Ministry of Health is committed to keeping health-care costs affordable, especially for lower- and middle-income Singaporeans, while ensuring that the system is equitable and sustainable in the longer term.
We will continue to refine our health-care financing system to ensure that it continues to meet Singaporeans' needs.
Letter from Bey Mui Leng (Ms) Director, Corporate Communications Ministry of Health
This article was published on April 19 in The Straits Times.Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.