PRs in most income bands will get half the amounts citizens receive
THE gap in the health-care subsidies for citizens and permanent residents (PRs) will be further widened by the Government in a move that shows Singaporeans come first. The change will result in PRs in most income bands receiving about half the amount of subsidies that citizens get. It is the second revision in two years; in 2010, the difference was 20 percentage points.
Yesterday, in announcing the new rates, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a press statement that they are “to further sharpen the distinction in the benefits received between citizens and PRs”. Subsidies at polyclinics, however, remain unchanged. The changes will be introduced in two phases at public hospitals: in October this year and in April next year. At institutions that provide intermediate and long-term care such as community hospitals and nursing homes, the new rates will be rolled out in the third quarter of this year.
From Oct 1, a PR patient in a C-class hospital ward will receive a subsidy of 38.5 per cent to 55 per cent while a citizen will receive 65 per cent to 80 per cent. From April 1, the PR’s subsidy will be 32.5 per cent to 55 per cent. In a B2 ward, the PR’s new subsidy will be similarly introduced in October and April. It will range from 25 per cent to 40 per cent, while the subsidy for a citizen will be 50 per cent to 65 per cent. The changes also come on the heels of the Government’s pledge to keep health care affordable for Singaporeans.
Last month, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong expressed this commitment in Parliament when he gave figures on the extensive subsidies enjoyed by most Singaporeans at public medical institutions. The policy to distinguish between citizens and PRs is also seen in other areas such as housing, school fees and balloting for places in Primary 1 classes. According to the ministry, PRs made up about 5 per cent or 13,000 of subsidised hospital patients last year. At specialist outpatient clinics last year, they formed about 5 per cent or 144,000 of subsidised patients. The subsidies for PRs cost $56 million last year and the changes are estimated to save about $6 million.
Dr Lam Pin Min, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, however finds the cut in the PR’s subsidy “a little excessive”. He said: “Many Singaporean households will have family members who are PRs, sometimes not by choice, but they may have been unsuccessful in obtaining citizenship after several attempts. “This additional financial burden may then be passed on indirectly to the Singaporean household affected.” He hopes the ministry can set up a medical aid fund to help needy PRs.
On the other hand, Dr Chia Shi-Lu, a member of the GPC, thinks that overall health-care costs will still be affordable for PRs. He pointed out that under the old system, PRs in some income bands did not receive any subsidies at community hospitals. Now, they get between 10 per cent and 25 per cent. Dr Chia said: “I hope the savings from the new changes can be directed to the health care for the elderly.” PRs interviewed said the changes will raise their cost of living. Said brand communication executive Nicole Shen, 30, who is from China and is married to a Singaporean: “I’m quite disappointed. I plan to stay here for the long term and raise my children here. I feel that the spouses of citizens should get the same subsidies as citizens.”