Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Flexibility in extending Medisave use

MR CHAK Kwok Leong ("Medisave: Help seniors with hefty hospital bills"; last Saturday) shared his experience with his hospital bills, and suggested that unemployed seniors should be allowed to use Medisave beyond current withdrawal limits to pay for their hospitalisation bills if necessary.

We are sorry to learn of Mr Chak's medical situation and the difficulty with his bill. He had written to the Ministry of Health to appeal for the use of his Medisave, and the appeal has been granted. We also understand that he had already settled his bill prior to writing to the ministry.

Medisave withdrawal limits are currently sized to be sufficient to cover a patient's stay in a subsidised ward (Class B2/C) at a public hospital. The large bill may be due to Mr Chak being a private day-surgery patient.

We do exercise flexibility in extending the use of Medisave on a case-by-case basis to cover large inpatient bills.

We assure Mr Chak that due consideration is also given to the age and financial circumstances of those who appeal for Medisave use, in line with the scheme's objective to cover Singaporeans' health-care needs after they retire.

We understand Singaporeans' worry about out-of-pocket expenses and the affordability of health care, even after insurance and Medisave have been used to defray bills. The ministry will be undertaking a major review of our health-care financing framework, including how we can make Medisave work better for Singaporeans, to see how we can provide them with greater peace of mind.

We encourage those in need of assistance to approach the medical social workers in our health-care institutions early. The medical social workers are able to provide financial advice and assistance, including how best to structure the repayment of bills or apply for Medifund.

Bey Mui Leng (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 12 Mar 2013

Help seniors with hefty hospital bills

A FEW months back, I had an angioplasty and stents inserted in two of my badly blocked arteries.

IncomeShield and Medisave each paid about 25 per cent of the bill, leaving me to pay the balance, which amounted to about $5,000.

I am 65 years old and my wife is 64. Both of us are unemployed and our monthly medical bills are quite high.

As we did not have this sum of money, the only option was to borrow from a moneylender (banks will not lend money to an unemployed elderly man). But the interest we have to service every month is a big burden.

I asked the Health Ministry to allow me to use my Medisave to cover the bill balance, but I have yet to hear from it.

Unemployed seniors should be allowed to use their Medisave funds to pay their hospital bills, minus the part covered by insurance.

When their Medisave funds are exhausted, hopefully Medifund Silver will come to their rescue.

The present practice of releasing only a small percentage of a Central Provident Fund member's savings for each claim has veered from the CPF's original aim of being a savings scheme for members to rely on when they become old and are unable to work.

Some seniors may even delay medical treatment because they are unable to pay the bills.

I hope the Government will review its policy on Medisave use to cover the hospital bills of the elderly, so as to avoid placing hardship on senior citizens during their twilight years.

Chak Kwok Leong
ST Forum, 9 Mar 2013

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