Saturday 12 November 2011

More visiting Malaysia for medical treatment - can use Medisave at 12 hospitals

Bills are up to 50% lower, and Singaporeans and PRs can use Medisave at 12 hospitals
By Leonard Lim, The Straits Times, 12 Nov 2011

WHEN Mrs Goh Chai Gek wanted to deliver her baby boy, she decided it would be cheaper to head across the Causeway.

The total cost of her caesarean section delivery was about RM8,190.

This bill - which included three nights in June at a hospital an hour's drive from Singapore - was the equivalent of $3,575 according to exchange rates at the time.

It would typically have come up to about $5,840 in Singapore General Hospital Ward A, meaning she enjoyed savings of about 40 per cent.

'It was cheaper, convenient as my family is in Johor Baru, and I could claim the amount from Medisave,' said the accountant, 30, a Singapore permanent resident.

Lured by savings of up to 50 per cent, growing numbers of Singaporeans and PRs are travelling to Malaysia for medical treatment. It comes after the Government relaxed rules in March last year to allow Medisave to be used to pay for hospitalisation and day surgery treatment in 12 hospitals there.

Those crossing the Causeway for hospital treatment will soon have more choice, when a $2 billion medical hub - a joint project between billionaire Singapore investor Peter Lim and the Johor royal family - opens in 2015.

Before the liberalisation, Medisave could be used only in Singapore, or for emergency treatment overseas.

Health Management International (HMI) and Parkway Pantai Group are currently the only two health-care groups here accredited to refer patients to Malaysia.

An HMI spokesman said yesterday that 120 patients have used Medisave overseas for their medical treatments to date.

HMI has two hospitals in Malaysia - the Regency Specialist Hospital in Johor Baru, which Mrs Goh visited, and Mah-kota Medical Centre in Malacca.

Most of the cases are obstetrics and gynaecology, the HMI spokesman said. Cardiology, colorectal surgery, ophthalmo-logy and orthopaedic surgery are other commonly sought treatments.

A spokesman for Parkway Pantai Group said it had seen increased interest from patients who are thinking of using Medisave in its Malaysian hospitals since the initiative took effect.

The group can refer patients to 10 hospitals there - Gleneagles Intan Medical Centre in Kuala Lumpur and nine Pantai group hospitals in places such as Klang, Ipoh and Penang.

'The service is very good as well; I was well taken care of,' said Mrs Leong Choon Yin, a 62-year-old retiree who had cataract surgery in a Johor Baru hospital in May. 'They provided transport for me as well between Singapore and JB.'

She paid RM4,600 - about $2,020 according to the exchange rate at the time. This included hospitalisation for one night. The full sum could be claimed through Medisave.

A similar day private surgery procedure at a hospital here typically costs between $2,860 and $4,856, according to the Ministry of Health website.

A total of 160 patients claimed around $380,000 from Medisave for overseas elective treatments in the period until Oct 31 this year, said a ministry spokesman.

Medisave can be used to pay for treatment at the new complex - announced on Thursday - if patients obtain referrals from Thomson Medical Centre here.

The 10ha facility will include a 200-bed general hospital, hotels, and entertainment outlets. It will house centres of excellence for diabetes, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, women's health, and a day surgery centre.

It will be situated a few hundred metres from the new customs, immigration and quarantine facility. Construction is expected to start late next year.

Dr Chan Boon Kheng, 43, the president of an investment vehicle set up by Mr Lim to spearhead investments in health care, said Singaporeans also head to Malaysia for treatment of chronic illnesses like high blood pressure and diabetes. This is to take advantage of drug prices that can be around 20 per cent lower.

A box of Lipitor - to reduce cholesterol - costs about RM125 (S$50) there, and $76.50 here. 'Given that everyone is concerned about escalating health-care costs, the value proposition for Malaysian health-care facilities is its value for money,' said Dr Chan.

Cheaper treatment and no out-of-pocket payment

Patient: Mrs Leong Choon Yin, 62, Singaporean, retired
Procedure: Cataract (extraction with intraocular lens implantation)
Date admitted: May 29, 2011
Date discharged: May 30, 2011
Total bill: RM4,601.69 (S$2,018.29)
Medisave claimable:$2,018.29
Out-of-pocket payment: Nil
Typical bill in a Singapore hospital for day surgery (private): $2,860 to $4,856

Patient: Mrs Goh Chai Gek, 30, Singapore permanent resident, accountant
Procedure:Caesarean section delivery
Date admitted: June 15, 2011
Date discharged:June 18, 2011
Total bill: RM8,187.61 (S$3,575.37)
Medisave claimable:S$3,575.37
Out-of-pocket payment: Nil
Typical bill at Singapore hospital (Ward A): $5,840 to $6,287

Sources: Health Management International, Ministry of Health website

Billionaire investor Peter Lim, Johor royalty to build JB medical hub
By Magdalen Ng, The Straits Times, 11 Nov 2011

Billionaire investor Peter Lim is teaming up with the Johor royal family to build a $2 billion complex that will include a hospital, hotels, flats and entertainment outlets in Johor Baru.

The 10ha complex will be erected on a waterfront site just a few hundred metres from Johor's new customs, immigration and quarantine facility, making it highly convenient for Singaporeans.

The developers are looking at concepts and designs and obtaining work permits. The first phase of construction should begin at the end of next year, with the hospital expected to be functional by early 2015.

A 200-bed general hospital with specialist services in areas such as diabetes and ophthalmology will be built in the first stage.

The second phase involves building the supporting facilities for the medical hub, such as serviced apartments, entertainment facilities and a shopping mall.

Singaporeans and Malaysians with CPF can use Medisave at proposed JB hospital

Mr Koh Kim Huat, director of Best Blend, the joint-venture company behind the development, said the idea arose over a year ago.

'Peter and the Sultan are old friends, and they wanted to do something meaningful, so they decided to build a hospital to provide quality health care, where the main beneficiaries will be from Singapore and Johor,' added Mr Koh, who is also the spokesman for the development.

The medical hub will be managed by Thomson International Health Services, the consultancy and management division of Singapore's Thomson Medical Centre.

Mr Lim, 58, known as the 'remisier king' for his uncanny ability to spot a winning stock, bought Thomson Medical Centre earlier this year.

Thomson's senior nurses and doctors will be involved in running the medical hub.

Singaporeans and Malaysians with Central Provident Fund accounts will be able to utilise their Medisave reserves to pay for treatment at the new hospital as they will be able to obtain referrals from Thomson Medical Centre Singapore.

There are plans to set up a training school for nurses and medical technicians at the hospital, and to establish facilities for health promotion and disease prevention.

A key area of focus will be treating the kind of chronic and lifestyle diseases associated with growing affluence that are affecting increasing numbers of Malaysians.

Mr Koh added that the location was chosen in particular for its proximity to Singapore.

Teacher Jasmine Sia, who recently gave birth to her son at Thomson Medical Centre, said she would not mind trying out the services in Malaysia.

Ms Sia, 26, told The Straits Times last night: 'I live in Bukit Panjang, so the time taken for me to get to Johor and to Thomson will be the same.

'Cheaper services will be welcome but what really matters is the quality of the health care, and whether the waiting time will be long.'

Mr Lim, who is estimated by Forbes estimates to be worth US$1.8 billion (S$2.3 billion), declined to comment.

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