Right to target help at the needy

Right to target help at the needy

SINGAPORE - While I understand Ms Margaret Leong's predicament ("Tweak health subsidy criterion to help elderly"; Monday), I wonder if an elderly person who lives with his adult working children is truly needy, especially if the per capita household income exceeds the Community Health Assist Scheme's $1,800 qualifying criterion.

The Government expects people to use their disposable income to pay for the health-care expenses of their family members.

It is a different matter if an unemployed or retired elderly person lives alone. In this case, he is deserving of health subsidies under the scheme.

The Government's policy of targeting help at the needy has served Singaporeans well.

Ms Leong suggested that the scheme's criterion be based on an individual's income rather than family income. This is problematic.

Suppose a family of four, comprising a couple and their two schoolgoing children, has a household income of $10,000, but only the husband works. Then he would not qualify for health subsidies while the rest of his family are eligible, since they have no income. In this case, the Government is subsidising the health-care expenses of the wife and children, even though the husband can well afford to pay for their needs.

But under the current system, none of them would qualify for subsidies, which is fair.

The current system works well as it identifies families that genuinely need help.

- Francis Cheng

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