Retiree's asthma medication bill cut by $10 each trip

Every three months, Mr Ahmad Jawaher visits his polyclinic to buy asthma medication, without which he has difficulty breathing.

The 66-year-old receives medical subsidies under the blue tier of the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas), which caters to those with per capita household income of up to $1,100.

Mr Ahmad still ends up forking out $100 for each batch of medication, so he welcomed yesterday's news of further subsidies for pioneers like himself.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced that from Sept 1, those eligible for the Pioneer Generation Package will get the highest subsidies under Chas.

So for a doctor's visit for a single chronic condition like asthma, seniors such as Mr Ahmad will get a $90 subsidy instead of the current $80 he receives under the blue tier.

The annual cap has also been increased from $320 to $360.

"It's good for us," said the retiree. "A lot of my friends also have health problems."

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, who took over as head of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health last Friday, lauded the new subsidies, saying: "I have previously commented that for PG (pioneer generation) Singaporeans, there should be no means testing or income criteria for Chas eligibility and I am glad this is now confirmed."

He said the higher subsidy is the cherry on the cake "which I am certain will have a significant impact and will be much welcomed". He added: "It can be argued that recognition for a person's contribution to nation-building should not depend on a person's financial position.

"The PG Package is first and foremost a recognition measure and secondarily a welfare measure and it should stay true to that."

Chas was originally meant for seniors aged 65 and older, to make it easier for them to get medical care at a general practitioner clinic nearer home, rather than go to a polyclinic for subsidised care.

It was later extended to patients aged 40 and older, and from the start of this year, to patients of all ages from low- to middle-income families.

Dr Chia said: "It is good to once again differentiate it with higher subsidies for the more elderly."

This article was published on May 18 in The Straits Times.

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