Push for portable medical plans needs more support

SINGAPORE - The push by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) for portable medical plans is a good one ("NTUC to renew push for portable medical plans"; last Saturday).

One disadvantage of group insurance is that the coverage will end once a person leaves the company, just when he needs it most.

Another disadvantage is that many people are covered by both their company's group insurance and their own private integrated Shield plans, which leads to unnecessary duplication and wastage of premiums.

The civil service's model of giving its staff extra Medisave contributions so that they can use it to buy their own portable insurance is a good one and could be followed by more companies.

However, this approach is not popular due to two reasons.

First, some companies might want to provide their staff with outpatient benefits, which the portable insurance does not cover.

The companies also cannot buy a standalone group plan that covers only outpatient benefits, as insurance companies sell the outpatient benefits only as add-ons to basic hospitalisation plans.

Second, companies are unlikely to overhaul their current group insurance benefits as this involves additional work with little or no incentive.

Transiting to a portable plan is also not a straightforward exercise.

The push towards portable medical plans can succeed only if it is supported by government legislation and incentives.

Perhaps a sub-committee of the MediShield Life Review Committee could be appointed to look into this area.

Martin Lee

This article was first published on June 13, 2014.
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