92% of those who wanted help got full amount requested
MORE than $64 million was disbursed to help poor patients pay their hospital bills last year, an almost 10 per cent jump over the figure in the previous year. Medifund, set up in 1993 to help the needy get medical treatment, paid the full amount requested in the vast majority of cases – 92 per cent.
In all, the fund approved a total of 393,980 applications for help in the financial year (FY) ended March 31 this year. A Health Ministry spokesman said only about 1 per cent of all applications for help were rejected. The applicants were likely assessed to be able to afford their medical bills, said the spokesman.
Of all the money disbursed last year, almost one-third went to needy elderly patients, who either received funding from the main Medifund or from Medifund Silver, a fund set up specially for the elderly in 2007. Of all applications, 94 per cent were for outpatient treatment. They received an average of $89 each, up from $82 in the previous year. There were 23,667 successful applications to settle inpatient bills – 25 per cent lower than the 31,713 applications approved in the previous year.
However, the amount they received was higher, averaging $1,029, compared to $798 in FY2008/2009. When asked if the increase reflected the higher cost of hospital treatments, the spokesman said it represented the “greater amount of assistance that was disbursed to needy patients”. Even with the higher payout last year, the Medifund kitty remained healthy, going into the current financial year with a surplus of $10 million.
The fund helps to pay the bill after government subsidy has kicked in for patients in either C or B2 subsidised wards in public hospitals; for subsidized outpatient treatment at these hospitals; and for subsidised intermediate and long-term care. Each place has medical social workers who assess the needs of patients and help those who qualify to apply for financial aid.
Among hospitals, Tan Tock Seng Hospital patients received the most help from Medifund, followed by those of the Institute of Mental Health and Singapore General Hospital. More money went into helping patients in intermediate and long-term care – such as those in nursing homes – than in previous years. They received a total of $7.5 million, up from $4.3 million in 2008 and $2.5 million in 2007.
For the first time, 15 needy patients who enjoyed government subsidy in private nursing homes had their medical bills taken care of in full by Medifund. The Medifund surplus of $10 million will be converted to protected reserves when there is a changeover of government – that is, before the next general election. It will then become part of the capital fund. A further $100 million was injected into the fund last year, bringing the capital sum of the fund to $1.79 billion.