Sunday 17 November 2013

MediShield Life panel to hold first public discussion

Nov 27 consultation will be one of many involving up to 50 people each
By Salma Khalik, The Straits Times, 16 Nov 2013

A HIGH-POWERED team put together by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to design the new MediShield Life by May next year will be holding its first public discussion on Nov 27.

It is one of about 15 consultations, involving up to 50 people each, between now and March - all to help them understand the concerns of as wide a spectrum of people as possible.

This review committee's work to enlarge the national insurance scheme, MediShield, into one which covers every single resident regardless of age or health, started yesterday with its first meeting at NTUC Centre.

The panel will submit its recommendations in May, with the scheme targeted to start in 2015. Its key task: to raise benefits while maintaining affordability.

Headed by retired accountant and presidential adviser Bobby Chin, who promised to give regular updates, the 11-member team includes captains of industry, financial experts, health-care heads, grassroots leaders and a union leader. Many of them hope to speak up for the groups they represent.

Ms Diana Chia, president of NTUC, said it was good that workers' voice would be heard. She would be holding separate focus group discussions with members to get their input.

Mr Patrick Lee, chairman of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital, and Mr V. Tamilselvam, chairman of Cheng San Community Club, promised to put forward the concerns of the poor and needy, and those from the grassroots.

Lawyer Abdul Rohim Sarip, who is on the Medifund Advisory Council, also said he was familiar with the problems faced by people facing huge hospital bills.

Dr Lee Chien Earn, chief executive officer of Changi General Hospital, said the committee has a "challenging but meaningful task that will impact Singaporeans in a positive way".

Ms Janet Ang, managing director of IBM, said despite knowing it was going to be a lot of work, MediShield Life "is about putting the words 'inclusive society' into action, so how can I say no?"

Like her, the other 10 members said they had no hesitation in taking up the task of designing the new, comprehensive national insurance scheme.

Dr Tan See Leng, group CEO of Parkway Pantai, the largest private health-care provider here, said it took him only two minutes to agree to be on the committee.

Retired banker Oon Kum Loon said she is happy to help set up a scheme fair to all. Former insurance regulator Hauw Soo Hoon, having witnessed the evolution of MediShield over the years, sees this as an important step.

The final member of the team is deputy managing director of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, Mr Ong Chong Tee.

An MOH website - - is seeking feedback on people's concerns in terms of health-care financing. The feedback required will change as discussions on how to implement the new MediShield Life become more concrete.

Those interested in participating in the discussion on Nov 27 can also sign up on that website.

Premiums, claim limits among areas health panel will look into
By Neo Chai Chin, TODAY, 16 Nov 2013

Understanding what would give Singaporeans peace of mind, should they fall sick and incur a large hospitalisation bill, as well as examining parts of the current MediShield insurance scheme that need to change. These are among some areas that an 11-member committee will examine, as they began the quest yesterday to recommend affordable premiums for Singapore’s medical insurance scheme that will offer enhanced benefits in a sustainable way.

Announcing the team to the media after their inaugural meeting earlier in the morning, MediShield Life Review Committee Chairman Bobby Chin said the first discussion with the public has already been lined up. The focus group will take place on Nov 27, and he encouraged individuals to register or provide feedback on the website

The team — with expertise in healthcare, finance and business, as well as the labour and grassroots movements — hopes to conduct about 15 consultations before submitting recommendations to the Ministry of Health in six months, he said.

The committee will engage the public including those who do not speak English, stakeholders including insurers, as well as experts like academics on the “more technical aspects” of the scheme. Periodic updates of preliminary findings will be given to the public, said Mr Chin, 62, a retired accountant and member of the Council of Presidential Advisers of Singapore.

Among the committee members are National Trades Union Congress President Diana Chia, Chairman of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital and Nursing Home Patrick Lee, Parkway Pantai Group Chief Executive Tan See Leng, venture capital firm Operating partner Hauw Soo Hoon and Cheng San grassroots leader Vairappan Tamilselvam.

The enhancement to MediShield, which now covers 92 per cent of Singaporeans, was announced at the National Day Rally. When implemented in 2015, it will be called MediShield Life and cover all Singaporeans, including the very old and those with congenital conditions.

The committee will consider ways to keep MediShield premiums affordable and get policyholders to pay more when they are younger, so premiums will be more affordable in old age. Asked if certain features of the current scheme, such as lifetime and annual claim limits, would be done away with, Mr Chin said his team would look into it.

Parkway Pantai’s Dr Tan said the committee might consult voluntary welfare organisations to calibrate what is deemed affordable, and also hoped to consult a healthcare economist able to project ageing patterns and illnesses.

Calling the move to MediShield Life a “major policy shift”, Mr Chin said: “With more benefits, I think premiums will probably have to increase. It’s my committee’s job to see how we can moderate the level of premiums and to look into how we can help the lower-income group, including the elderly.”

But Principal Consultant of Insights Health Associates Jeremy Lim, who is not in the committee, said experts have noted that premium levels also depend on the model of care. Projecting higher premiums with greater coverage is based on the “assumption that we are running an optimised system”, said Dr Lim.

Healthcare economist Phua Kai Hong of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, who is not a member of the committee, said a social insurance scheme will have to operate not only on what is actuarially fair, but what is equitable and socially and politically acceptable. The committee will also face the challenge of deciding the mix of coverage by MediShield Life and by private insurers, and the claim limits.

MediShield Life might also mean a new regulatory body would be needed to regularly evaluate new drugs and technology developed and decide what should be covered.

“Who’s going to manage the supply side?” said Associate Professor Phua. “To my mind, the Government has to come in and has to decide what are the limits, what are the rules, what to cover and what’s not covered.”

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