TCM, health-care costs among key issues

SINGAPORE - A traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) outlet located in a regular polyclinic?

This was one of the suggestions from participants at on Sunday's Our Singapore Conversation session on health care, which was organised by Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao.

"Right now there are many clinics on two extremes, the expensive ones or the free ones run by charities, and there is a long wait at the free ones," said engineer Kelvin Foo, 60, who was one of the 35 participants.

TCM, which had not been brought up in the national conversation, was specifically introduced by Lianhe Zaobao in what was the third Our Singapore Conversation session it has organised.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who was at the dialogue on Sunday, said that TCM plays an important role but there is room for improvement.

Last year, the Government announced that it was setting aside $3 million for TCM research. Mr Gan said that if TCM can complement Western medicine, it will bring more benefits to patients.

A key issue during Sunday's discussion was keeping health care affordable.

Participants suggested making MediShield, the national insurance scheme, compulsory, and adopting a system in which younger people pay higher premiums than older ones.

Mr Gan said the Government is currently reviewing the Healthcare Financing Framework, which comprises subsidies, Medisave, MediShield and Medifund.

One key area being looked at is how much cash people pay out of their pocket for health care.

"We want to see how we can design the cash component so it will always be affordable, depending on your income level, depending on your conditions and depending on the setting that you go to," said Mr Gan.

He added that a key strategy is ensuring that patients are cared for in the way that is most appropriate for their needs. Said Mr Gan: "If you can be cared for in a lower-cost environment like nursing homes, then there's no need for you to go to the hospital."

Other concerns raised on Sunday included providing better support to the elderly, the need to increase the number of local doctors and to encourage more people to adopt healthy eating habits.

Mr Ye Ming Jie, a 31-year-old analyst, found the discussion fruitful and said the participants provided good ideas, such as giving out coupons for restaurants serving healthy food, the way fast- food restaurants do. He said: "If people eat healthy, their medical costs may also go down."

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.

Purchase this article for republication.