Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Pioneers need more healthcare support: PAP group

By Ng Jing Yng, TODAY, 7 Feb 2014

Minimising the cash outlay by seniors for their healthcare bills is at the crux of the recommendations made by the PAP Seniors Group to the Government for the Pioneer Generation Package and the formulation of MediShield Life.

The group from the People’s Action Party, making policy recommendations for the first time since it was formed in December, called for higher Medisave withdrawal limits for the elderly, more help for them to pay specialist outpatient treatments and expensive non-subsidised medicine, among other things.

Sharing the recommendations at a press conference yesterday, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who chairs the group, said healthcare was a chief concern during a dialogue session it had organised last week.

For instance, individuals aged 65 and above made up 10 per cent of the population in 2012, but accounted for almost 30 per cent of hospital admissions. Dialogue participants, who included both the young and elderly, also pointed out that seniors may have little savings, but face medical-cost inflation, Mdm Halimah said.

While the recommendations were made with the pioneer generation in mind, Mdm Halimah told TODAY they would be applicable to future cohorts of seniors as well. “Everyone will eventually grow old and the need for healthcare is recurrent,” she added.

Mdm Halimah also noted that the dialogue participants had different views on the definition of a pioneer. However, there was consensus towards setting a baseline benefit for all pioneers while giving the needy ones more, she added.

On the group’s recommendation to allow for higher Medisave withdrawal limits, Mdm Halimah noted that elderly citizens who are frail or suffer from chronic ailments might need to use their Medisave more than the younger people.

“We are also concerned that if … the elderly cannot withdraw more Medisave, they may end up in hospital more to make use of subsidies ... that is also not so desirable (with the current hospital bed crunch),” she said.

The group further suggested for Medisave to be used for home-based care to encourage active ageing in the community, as well as for buying non-subsidised medicine, so senior citizens will not have to use too much of their own cash.

With the ongoing review of MediShield Life — a universal insurance scheme offering lifelong coverage — the group also recommended increasing its level of benefits to provide better coverage for large subsidised bills.

Besides asking the Government to help pioneers pay a significant part of MediShield Life premiums, the group also noted that such help cannot be one-off as premiums will increase in the future.

Mdm Halimah also reiterated that the community can play a part in showing their appreciation and respect for the pioneer generation. For example, private enterprises can consider giving special discounts for senior customers, she said.

Mdm Halimah, who submitted the group’s recommendations to Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday, will also send them to the MediShield Life Review Committee.

Many welcome ideas to make healthcare more affordable for elderly
By Claire Huang, Channel NewsAsia, 8 Feb 2014 

Many have welcomed the ideas to make healthcare more affordable for the elderly, as recommended by the PAP Seniors Group on Thursday.

But some also flagged concerns about the impact of the proposals.

The PAP Seniors Group made several recommendations.

Among them, a tiered Medisave withdrawal scheme where older Singaporeans can withdraw more for outpatient needs, and increasing subsidies for homecare costs.

Mdm Chan Chee Meng, 80, said: "Hopefully they will help the elderly because some are really in need of assistance. Not everyone has children to help."

Mr Anthony Woo, 72, said: "The total package is of course a prudent direction to be heading for, but at the end of the day, it's still the same pool of money. It's the individual's income.

"Unless the government finds a way to plough some top-up, which is outside of the individual's earnings, then I will say it's complete."

Mr William Siow, 62, said: "The suggestions are good for the elderly but there's also a need to prevent the children seeking financial aid on behalf of their folks from abusing it."

For some, the suggestion to increase subsidies for homecare costs will ease Singapore's hospital bed crunch.

Abhijit Ghosh, leader of healthcare & pharmaceutical at PwC Singapore, said: “This will go a long way to solve the problem of the bed crunch issue because for the elderly generation, they would like to get the subsidy for their check-ups and try to get the hospital treatments.

“But if they can go more for the homecare treatment, where their near and dear ones are available, and the government's systems are geared up to support that, that would be fantastic.”

Another suggestion is getting the government to pay the bulk of MediShield Life premiums for seniors.

Dr Lam Pin Min, chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said: "With MediShield Life, the coverage for the different medical conditions will be enhanced. So I'd expect the MediShield Life premiums to be increased as well, and I'm sure this is the main concern of many Singaporeans.

“And I hope that with the review, we can seriously look into subsidising the MediShield Life premiums, especially for the older age group - the pioneer generation."

But concerns remain.

Mr Ghosh said: "The tiered withdrawal will enable the elderly generation to withdraw more but someone needs to cough it up, someone needs to put it (money) in. And I have reasons to believe we need to look at expanding our demographic profile and bring in more younger population to share the risks. So the issue of risk pooling will become a big issue."

Experts said tackling the ballooning healthcare costs for the elderly in Singapore will remain an uphill task for the government. This is especially so, with Singapore's rapidly ageing population and declining birth rate.

PAP Women's Wing wants more eldercare support
Position paper calls for policy changes in housing, health care, job and social support
By Janice Heng, The Sunday Times, 9 Feb 2014

The People's Action Party's Women's Wing is calling for change in four policy areas to better support seniors and their caregivers.

Its proposals include a housing subsidy for singles who care for aged parents, mandatory eldercare leave and a respite care scheme so caregivers can have breaks.

These were set out in its position paper released yesterday, which proposed changes to policies in housing, health care, employment and social support.

Ageing issues are particularly important to the Women's Wing as women are expected to form the majority of Singapore's elderly, said Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef at its annual conference, where she presented the paper along with fellow Women's Wing member and Member of Parliament Ellen Lee.

At the conference, Women's Wing chairman and Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu noted that women here have made great strides in health, education and employment.

But they continue to face challenges in trying to balance work and care-giving duties, she said. She highlighted the importance of keeping women in the workforce for as long as possible, especially in a rapidly ageing society where there will be fewer young folk to support the old.

Hence the need to push for measures to make workplaces more family-friendly through flexible hours, build better childcare and eldercare facilities, put in place an effective Fair Employment Practices Framework to reduce discrimination and adjust leave and benefits schemes so men and women can take on more equal roles at home.

She also highlighted a need to pay attention to low-wage households headed by women who are widowed or divorced.

Other measures to address the challenges of an ageing population were also explored in the position paper.

In housing, the Women's Wing also wants elderly-friendly fixtures to be made available to more by lowering the minimum age for the Housing Board's Enhancement for Active Seniors scheme and doing away with the requirement of needing assistance.

Dr Fatimah also spoke of helping elderly home owners to monetise their property by extending the Lease Buyback Scheme to larger HDB flats. The scheme lets home owners sell part of their lease back to the Government, but only for three-room and smaller flats currently.

In health care, the Women's Wing wants more subsidised health screenings and free assistive equipment such as wheelchairs for the needy elderly.

On eldercare leave, Dr Fatimah told reporters that a week's leave might be an appropriate amount. She hopes that this and other proposals can be put in place in the next two years.

On the employment front, ideas included an "elderpreneurship" centre with loans and training for older entrepreneurs, and more incentives to hire older workers.

Finally, in the area of social support, the Women's Wing hopes able-bodied elderly will be encouraged to help less able-bodied seniors.

The position paper has been presented to the PAP Seniors Group (PAP.SG), set up late last year to address elderly issues.

Last Thursday, PAP.SG released a paper on health care in which it called for more public spending in six areas to ensure health care remains affordable to older Singaporeans, especially members of the pioneer generation.

S'pore still lags behind in gender diversity among board directors: Grace Fu
By Tan Qiuyi, Channel NewsAsia, 8 Feb 2014

Six out of 10 companies in Singapore have all-male boards, and only 8 per cent of board directors in the country are women. This puts Singapore behind its Asian neighbours, like Hong Kong (9 per cent) and Indonesia (11 per cent).

Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Grace Fu gave these statistics at the PAP Women's Wing's annual conference on Saturday.

She told reporters that efforts over the past year to get companies to improve gender diversity on their boards have been slow.

"We're not happy with the progress," said Ms Fu, who is the chairperson of the PAP Women's Wing.

"For a company to say that I value women as employees is one thing. But when there're no board appointments, it sends the wrong signal to women working in that company," she said.

Ms Fu also told reporters that for now, there are no plans to push for legislation on women's representation in companies' senior management. But she said she was not ruling out the possibility in future.

"What we need is not legislation, and therefore perhaps a token appointment. We need companies to really look at this (women leaders) as a source of human capital, and to start building from the ground policies, development and training programmes that really look at tapping women as a resource," said Ms Fu.

The Women's Wing also presented a position paper focusing on seniors in Singapore.

The 15-page paper calls on the government to legislate elder care leave, amongst a slew of other health-care, housing, and employment improvements for seniors.

The Women's Wing will lobby for a law to give caregivers elder care leave of one week.

"This is realistic. As you know, our elderly and seniors have to go for check-ups and their rehabilitation programmes at least a few times a year, so I think a week (of elder care leave) would be a good start-off number," said Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef, who is a member of the PAP Women's Wing and an MP for Marine Parade GRC.

Apart from elder care leave, the Women's Wing is also urging the government to set up a respite care scheme for senior citizens, offer a higher subsidy for - or even free - health screening for needy seniors.

On employment, the group recommends government loans for entrepreneurship, more skills training and a "lifelong learning college" to raise the value of seniors in the job market and tackle any ageist attitudes.

The focus on the elderly is in tandem with the recent formation of PAP’s new wing for seniors called PAP.SG.

No comments:

Post a Comment