Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Indranee criticises WP for taking credit for MediShield Life

By Nur Asyiqin Mohamad Salleh, The Straits Times, 10 Jun 2014

THE Workers' Party (WP) was yesterday criticised by Senior Minister of State for Law and Education Indranee Rajah for being quick to claim credit for the MediShield Life scheme, and not offering detailed proposals of its own.

In a strongly worded Facebook post yesterday, she said the WP was also dismissive of the national conversation process which led to many of these suggestions for the new scheme.

Her comments are the latest in a string of criticisms that People's Action Party (PAP) MPs have levelled against the WP, both in Parliament and online, including a recent heated stand-off between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and WP chief Low Thia Khiang.

The latest comes after the MediShield Life review committee released its proposals last Thursday for the new universal health insurance scheme. Its suggestions include raising claim limits for a variety of medical services and providing subsidies to ease the transition to higher premiums.

The next day, WP media chairman and Non-Constituency MP Gerald Giam issued a short three-paragraph statement welcoming the recommendations. He said many of the enhancements to the health insurance scheme had been raised by WP MPs in Parliament, as well as by many Singaporeans over the years.

But Ms Indranee said: "The statement is instructive in its approach which is: 1. claim credit; 2. keep it vague; and 3. call for more." From the speed of their statement it can be inferred "that they think it is a great idea", she wrote, while adding the WP is "effectively saying MediShield Life enhancements are their idea".

It also implied that MediShield Life was a result of the WP speaking up in Parliament, she said, even though PAP MPs have also raised the issue, "and in far greater numbers and volubility".

Ms Indranee also noted that Mr Giam gave only a "vague" nod to the contributions of Singaporeans, when in fact MediShield Life is the result of Our Singapore Conversation, which took in the views of some 50,000 Singaporeans.

From that, health care was identified as a key area where assurance was needed.

MediShield Life is an example of a collaboration between government and people, and government listening and acting directly on what it has heard, she said.

The WP's apparent change in stance on the national conversation also received her criticism.

When Parliament reopened two weeks ago, Mr Low said that "constructive politics does not happen by order of the government nor does it happen through a national conversation or public consultation". But now the WP is attributing the MediShield Life policy to citizen feedback "obtained by that very same process", Ms Indranee said.

And to the WP's claim that it will continue to call for the Government to shoulder more health-care costs and risks, she said it is a "sweeping objective" that comes with no concrete details.

They are effectively calls for the taxpayer to pay more in taxes to fund the added government spending and to take on more risk, she added. The WP has also not provided any concrete details of how high premiums should be in relation to what the coverage should be. This, she concluded, illustrates the PM's point that the WP has no stand.

Responding last night, WP chairman Sylvia Lim said she was not sure why Ms Indranee took the WP's initial response to the MediShield Life committee's recommendations, and turned it into a statement claiming credit.

"We have stated the fact that these are areas we have been looking at and also other Singaporeans... I'm quite puzzled and I personally don't find the post particularly constructive," Ms Lim said, harking back to the PAP's call for constructive politics.

Indranee slams WP for claiming credit for MediShield Life recommendations
TODAY, 10 Jun 2014

Senior Minister of State (Education and Law) Indranee Rajah has criticised the Workers’ Party (WP) for its response to the MediShield Life recommendations, saying the opposition party was “vague” and “quick to claim credit”.

The WP had implied that MediShield Life had come out of their speaking up in Parliament when it was actually borne out of the Our Singapore Conversations (OSC), she added, in her Facebook post yesterday, titled The Art Of Claiming Credit.

“There is vague attribution to articulation by ‘many Singaporeans’ but that’s about it. The implication is that MediShield Life happened because they spoke up in Parliament. No credit is shared or given to anyone else,” Ms Indranee wrote.

“While WP MPs have raised healthcare issues in Parliament, so too have PAP MPs and in far greater numbers and volubility.”

She noted that the enhancements resulted from participants of the OSC saying they wanted more assurance in healthcare. The various ideas that were proposed were then collated, reviewed and analysed, before being crafted into policy — thanks to those who worked tirelessly on it, including the Health and Finance ministers.

Ms Indranee’s salvo came after she and several of her party colleagues — including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong — locked horns with the WP on various occasions in Parliament last month.

Mr Lee had characterised the WP as a “sub-standard” opposition party, alleging they had not suggested policy alternatives or been clear on what they stand for, and only asking the PAP to do better — a view party chief Low Thia Khiang rejected.

Repeating the charge yesterday, Ms Indranee took issue with the WP’s saying it would continue pushing for the Government to shoulder a higher proportion of healthcare costs and share more risks on behalf of Singaporeans.

“WP provides no details of how this sweeping objective is to be achieved and they speak as though the government operates apart from its citizens,” she said, pointing out that asking the Government to pay more and bear more risk translates to taxpayers bearing these burdens in reality.

“Never mind that WP has not provided any concrete proposals or details of how this is to be achieved, for example, how high premiums should be vis-a-vis what the coverage should be, nor are there any suggestions on where the money to pay more is going to come from, nor how the higher risks they call for is to be assumed or protected against.”

She added: “The sum total of what WP is really saying is: Whatever the Government does, we will say, ‘Do more!’”

Ms Indranee also attacked the WP for dismissing the citizen feedback process during the debate on the President’s address last month, when Mr Low said the outcome of the political process was what is important and that “constructive politics does not happen by order of the government nor does it happen through a national conversation or public consultation”.

Slamming this as a “lofty statement and a grand dismissal of the OSC process and public consultation”, Ms Indranee said: “Yet here we have one of the most constructive outcomes of a national conversation and public consultation — MediShield Life, an outcome for which WP now seeks to take credit.

“Two weeks ago, they dismissed the citizen feedback process. Now they attribute this policy (MediShield Life) to citizen feedback, obtained by that very same process,” she added.

Contacted by TODAY, the WP did not respond by press time.

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