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bullet  Medisave can be used in 12 Malaysian hospitals   

 Source: The Straits Times
Thursday, 11 | 02 | 2010

By: Salma Khalik

PATIENTS who want to use Medisave to pay for private care abroad will be able to do so at 12 hospitals and medical centres in Malaysia from next month.
The facilities, owned by two Singapore health-care groups, offer care which could cost as little as half what it does here.

Patients who opt for the Malaysian hospitals must be referred by the Singapore groups’ centres first. They can use money from their Medisave accounts only for day surgery or in-hospital admissions, subject to the same withdrawal limits as in Singapore.

The move, nearly a year in the making, gives Singaporeans, permanent residents and their immediate families more choice in where to receive in-patient and day surgery treatments.

The two groups are Health Management International (HMI), whose referral centre is its clinic in Balestier, and Parkway Holdings, whose referral centre is East Shore Hospital.

The ministry felt that having local partners would give an assurance of quality and prevent abuse, such as claims for unnecessary treatments, or bogus claims.

The referral centres must provide a pre-admission clinical assessment that the patient needs the treatment. The doctor here is also responsible for any follow-up care the patient might need.

Although Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said in a blog post yesterday that the scheme might not attract many people, it is “still worthwhile as it gives Singaporeans more choices”.

Patients who get subsidised treatment here are unlikely to take up this offer, “as there will be no cost savings for them if they go overseas”, he said. Until now, Medisave could be used only in Singapore, or for emergency treatment overseas.

The proposal to extend it to cover elective hospital treatment overseas was first raised at a dialogue by a union leader in April 2008. Mr Khaw asked for a show of hands of who was in favour of such a move and most hands went up.

In March last year, the Health Ministry gave in-principle approval for the move. It decided that it would need Singapore partners as it had no jurisdiction over foreign hospitals.

Mr Khaw said: “The easiest thing for a regulator is to simply say ‘no’ to a proposal. MOH decided to say ‘yes’, to give the idea a try, closely monitor it, and to make refinements if necessary.”

Madam Halimah Yacob, deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, who was present at the 2008 dialogue, lauded the ministry for the move.

The MP for Jurong GRC said: “It provides more choices for those who want to seek treatment from private hospitals yet want to stretch their dollar to do so by seeking cheaper but good quality treatment overseas.

“There are also people who travel and work in Malaysia and the current policy, which restricts them from using their Medisave, is a strain on their pockets.”

The move comes as a boon for Ms Serene Goh, a petrol station manager and permanent resident married to a Singaporean. Her mother, Madam Mah Boon Hong, who lives with her, is Malaysian and not entitled to health-care subsidies here. Now, Ms Goh will be able to use her Medisave to pay for her mother’s treatment at HMI’s Regency Specialist Hospital in Johor.

HMI executive chairman Gan See Khem said the Regency, an hour’s drive from Singapore, has 15 Singapore-based doctors working there part of the time, with more applying for the licence to practise in Malaysia.

This way, she noted, the same doctors can treat patients on both sides of the Causeway.

With the Medisave hurdle overcome, the question has turned to whether MediShield insurance coverage could also be extended to help pay the bills.

When contacted, NTUC Income said: “We are open to exploring the possibility of including coverage for policyholders who are referred by hospitals and medical facilities approved by MOH.”

Great Eastern said policyholders who buy its TotalShield Plus rider to the basic Shield plan are already covered for treatment in Malaysia.

Where to go for treatment

Referral centre:
Balestier Clinic and Health Screening Centre

Facilities in Malaysia:
Regency Specialist Hospital (Johor Baru), which provides a door-to-door return transport for up to four people for $80
Mahkota Medical Centre (Malacca)

Referral centre:
East Shore Hospital

Facilities in Malaysia:
Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Pantai Hospital, Kuala Lumpur
Pantai Hospital, Cheras
Pantai Hospital, Ampang
Pantai Hospital, Klang
Pantai Hospital, Ipoh
Pantai Hospital, Ayer Keroh
Pantai Hospital, Penang
Pantai Hospital, Batu Pahat
Pantai Hospital, Sungai Petani

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