Keeping health-care affordable

SINGAPORE - Allow Medisave to be used for health screening, essential dental procedures, physiotherapy and occupational therapy, but up to a certain cap to prevent excessive utilisation.

Medisave limits should also be reviewed regularly to keep them in line with higher medical costs, and the standard drug list should be expanded so that more essential drugs are covered.

These are some of the recommendations made by the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health yesterday in a report on improving health-care affordability for Singaporeans.

The report, addressed to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, aims to "highlight the current health-care financing system in Singapore and proposes various recommendations to improve health-care affordability for Singaporeans".

It adds that it "approaches the issue from a person-centric perspective".

The report by the committee, led by GPC chairman Lam Pin Min, followed this year's Committee of Supply (COS) debate in March, during which Mr Gan had said a review of health-care financing that started last year will take a year more to complete.

Mr Gan had also made it clear that the Government's share of health-care spending will increase from the current 30 per cent to 40 per cent "and even more in the future". This is in order to share the burden of health-care cost increases.

The report's consultation process involved various stakeholders in the health-care sector, including medical social workers and ordinary Singaporeans.

Among the other recommendations is one on a revision of the current Eldershield payout.

This is because the current scheme, meant for severely disabled elderly Singaporeans, provides a payout that is insufficient to even cover nursing-home fees, said the report.

In a response to the media yesterday, Mr Gan thanked Dr Lam and the members of the GPC for the "thoughtful" report. He said: "The GPC has indeed reflected the concerns of many Singaporeans."

Mr Gan also agreed with the key thrusts proposed by the GPC.

He said: "They reflect the same spirit of review that my ministry is undertaking for our healthcare financing framework."

He added that his ministry is studying the GPC's suggestions in detail and "several of our current policy reviews are aligned to your recommendations".

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