WITHIN the next five years, the Government expects to reform ElderShield, a long-term national disability insurance, to provide a greater payout from its current $400 per month, said Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday. He added that, in his opinion, this could be raised to between $800 and $1,000. There are also plans to upgrade MediShield, the Government’s health-insurance scheme covering serious illnesses, such that it can cover more illnesses, including mental and congenital conditions.
Speaking to the media at the People’s Action Party (PAP) Sembawang Branch in Woodlands, Mr Khaw said that these were part of his party’s healthcare plans for Singaporeans. Mr Khaw, who helms the PAP team standing in Sembawang Group Representation Constituency, said he felt that the current ElderShield payout was not enough. He noted that after he had reformed the ElderShield scheme in 2007, raising the payout to $400 per month from $300 a month, “I always felt that somewhere around $800 per month would be more appropriate”. He spoke on doubling the payout in Parliament last year.
But he said he would “certainly want to try” to achieve this at the next round of reform “in the next term of government”. He also said the new Elder- Shield reform could help middle-income Singaporeans ease the costs of nursing-home services, which could be $2,000 a month for decent ones. To this, he said a payout of $1,000 a month through Elder-Shield to help offset the nursing-home costs would be “even better”. And with top-ups to ElderShield, the payout could reach $1,500 a month, he added. “I think that is the correct way to resolve (the) rising health-care cost problem,” Mr Khaw said.
On the Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) proposal to convert void decks into polyclinics, he said he shared the objective of bringing convenience to patients. But he felt that the PAP’s solution - the Primary Care Partnership Scheme introduced about 10 years ago - is “superior” and “much more convenient”. The PAP scheme allows elderly patients, who meet certain criteria, to visit a general practitioner in a private clinic but pay subsidised polyclinic rates. Mr Khaw said that, unlike the opposition’s proposal, the scheme taps on existing doctors, now numbering 700 in the scheme. He said void-deck clinics would still have to find doctors to man them. He also took issue with the SDP’s call to increase the number of hospital beds to match the norms in other countries. He said Singapore delivered the same good health outcomes, if not better in some cases, than countries like the United States despite spending two to three times less on health care. “Why must we ape the US in terms of the number of (hospital) beds if the outcome is already the same, with less resources?” he said.