Tuesday 14 October 2014

Pioneer subsidies: Not all specialists are equal

Pioneer subsidies: MOH replies

AS ANNOUNCED by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam during this year's Budget, the Pioneer Generation Package includes additional subsidies for pioneers who are receiving subsidised services ("Pioneer subsidies: Not all specialists are equal" by Ms Pang Cheng Lian, last Wednesday; and "Scrap 'different specialist rule' " by Mr Tommy Lee Kheng Huat, last Thursday).

Pioneers who are currently private patients, and who wish to enjoy the pioneer generation subsidies at Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOCs), can ask to switch to the subsidised SOCs.

While they will no longer be able to choose their doctors after they switch, the specialists they are currently seeing may be part of the teams which take over their care.

All subsidised patients, including our pioneers, can be assured that they will continue to receive quality care from our teams of health-care professionals.

These additional subsidies for pioneers are over and above the subsidies that are available at the subsidised SOCs, which were increased from 50 per cent to 60 per cent and 70 per cent for middle- and lower-income Singaporeans respectively from Sept 1.

The income criteria to be eligible for the higher subsidies are similar to those for the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).

Pioneers enjoy an additional subsidy of 50 per cent off the net bill for subsidised SOC services. The additional 50 per cent benefit applies equally to all pioneers.

Pioneers who choose to remain as private patients at SOCs will continue to benefit from the other initiatives under the Pioneer Generation Package. These include additional subsidies at polyclinics, special subsidies at CHAS clinics, annual Medisave top-ups, and MediShield Life premium subsidies when MediShield Life is implemented next year.

Those with functional disabilities will also be able to receive assistance under the Pioneer Generation Disability Assistance Scheme.

Taken together, these initiatives will support the health-care needs of all our pioneers for the rest of their lives.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Director, Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 13 Oct 2014

Scrap 'different specialist rule'

I AGREE with Ms Pang Cheng Lian ("Pioneer subsidies: Not all specialists are equal"; yesterday) as I am in a similar situation.

On receiving my Pioneer Generation card, I made inquiries at the information desks of hospitals and was given the same answer - to receive the benefits, I had to "downgrade" and would not be able to consult the specialists I had been seeing.

Older folk are set in their ways and feel comfortable seeing the specialists who have been taking care of them for years.

The specialist I am seeing in a government hospital also treats subsidised patients. So why can't I continue seeing him after I "downgrade"?

Tommy Lee Kheng Huat
ST Forum, 9 Oct 2014

Pioneer subsidies: Not all specialists are equal

AS A member of the pioneer generation, I was delighted when the Government announced a slew of benefits under the Pioneer Generation Package.

Last month, I went to see my Community Health Assist Scheme-registered dentist and paid only $25 out of a $70 bill. I left the dentist feeling that old age has its perks after all, thanks to a caring government. Any retiree will confirm that a dollar saved is a dollar earned.

My joy, however, turned to frustration this month when I went for my regular eye check-up at the Singapore National Eye Centre, where I have been seeing a particular specialist since 2011.

This time, when I asked if I could use my Pioneer Generation card, the reply was a polite but firm "no". I was told that if I wanted the subsidy, I would have to "downgrade" and see a different specialist, or wait longer to see my specialist.

Fellow pioneers I have spoken to recalled that when the package was first announced, it was declared that age would be the sole criterion for subsidies, since it was to honour pioneers for their past contributions. It was also announced that we would be subsidised even when consulting specialists at government hospitals.

Now, we are told that not all specialists are equal.

At the National Skin Centre, I was told I would qualify for subsidies only if I had been referred by a polyclinic, was seeing a specialist on the second floor (my specialist was located on the third floor), and was prepared to wait for a longer time for my appointment.

Singaporeans have been urged to feel with their hearts and think with their heads. My heart welcomes the good intentions behind the pioneer package, but my head cannot understand why the good intentions are being thwarted in the implementation process. Can we be more gracious in honouring our pioneers?

Pang Cheng Lian (Ms)
ST Forum, 8 Oct 2014

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