Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Flexi-Medisave: Elderly to get more Medisave help for outpatient services

From 1 April 2015, those aged 65 and older can draw on extra $200 each year
By Kash Cheong, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2015

OLD folk here will soon need to fork out less cash for outpatient medical expenses, as they can draw on an extra $200 each year from Medisave.

Come April, Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 65 and above will be able to use this sum for medical services, drugs and tests, as well as disease screening, among others.

The money is for use at public sector specialist outpatient clinics, polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) general practitioner clinics.

The latest change is part of an effort to expand the use of the national health savings plan so patients can use it to cover more of their medical bills.

Called Flexi-Medisave, it will help those with conditions - such as urinary tract infection - where outpatient medical expenses cannot currently be claimed under Medisave, as well as people who have to pay a portion of their bills in cash even after tapping government subsidies and maximising their Medisave withdrawal limits.

It is the latest among measures to loosen the Medisave purse strings. Other moves include a $300 annual Medisave allowance for outpatient scans that started this year.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced details of the new scheme at a CHAS Family Carnival in Tampines yesterday.

"The elderly are a special group," he said. "They have either retired or, for those who work, earn less but incur higher health-care costs."

Under the scheme, husbands and wives, if aged 65 or above, can also use their spouse's Medisave account to pay for outpatient treatment if they do not have enough funds in their own account.

The Health Ministry gave the example of a patient who has to visit a public hospital's orthopaedic clinic for follow-up consultations after leg fracture surgery.

He would need two to three consultations there, as well as physiotherapy.

After a subsidy, he might have to pay $300 in cash, including the cost of medicine and X-rays.

From April 1, he will be able to draw on $200 from Medisave too, so he will pay $100 in cash.

His wife, who visits the polyclinic every few months to treat her thyroid disorder, may have a $120 bill a year, after subsidies.

The man can use up to $200 from his Medisave account to pay for her treatments, on top of the $200 he has used for himself.

Flexi-Medisave can also supplement other outpatient uses of Medisave, such as an existing $400 limit for chronic diseases.

Said retired production controller Tay Peng Wah, 65, who has just been diagnosed with diabetes: "Flexi-Medisave would help ease financial pressure and free up cash for other purposes."

At yesterday's event, maps of Tampines CHAS clinics and eldercare services were also launched. Such maps, piloted by the Agency for Integrated Care, may be extended to other areas in Singapore at a later time.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, MP for Tampines GRC, also launched the Healthy Pathway@Tampines, a 1km walkway near Tampines MRT station.

Residents can register for a Healthy Pathway tag and, if they tap these tags at designated lampposts, they can accumulate points to get items such as supermarket vouchers.

Said one user Jek Kwok Kwong, 77, a part-time engineer: "Hopefully, this would encourage more elderly people to exercise. It is a good way to keep fit and make friends, so that one has good company when one grows old."

New Flexi-Medisave scheme: What it can and cannot be used for
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2015

A new Flexi-Medisave scheme will be introduced on April 1, 2015, to give the elderly more flexibility in using their Medisave and to further reduce their out-of-pocket costs for outpatient medical care.

Under the scheme, Singaporeans aged 65 and above will be able to use up to $200 of Medisave a year for outpatient treatments at public sector specialist outpatient clinics, polyclinics and general practitioner clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).

Here is what the scheme can be used for:

- Outpatient medical treatment received at designated healthcare institutions.

- Screening tests under the national Integrated Screening Programme. This includes screenings for selected chronic diseases and cancers.

- To supplement other outpatient uses of Medisave. This includes the new $300 limit for outpatient scans that was implemented on Jan 1, 2015, and the existing $400 limit for things like outpatient treatment for chronic diseases.

An example of what Flexi-Medisave covers:

- An elderly man visits a public hospital's orthopaedic clinic following a leg fracture surgery and is required to go for follow-up consultations and physiotherapy sessions. He can use up to $200 from his Medisave to reduce his cash payment for such costs after subsidy.

- If his wife visits the polyclinic every few months for treatment of her thyroid disorder, she can use Flexi-Medisave to cover her medical bills. If she does not have enough Medisave, he is able to use up to $200 from his own account to pay for her treatment. This is on top of the $200 he has already used for his own treatment.

The scheme does not cover things such as:

- Treatment for non-medical purposes, such as slimming and hair loss

- Administrative fees not related to treatment, including charges for medical reports

- Retail items, such as mobility aids and skin products

- Traditional and complementary medicine

- Dental treatments

- All accident and emergency expenses incurred at emergency departments

- Ambulance fees

New Flexi-Medisave scheme can be used with other schemes for outpatient treatment
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 29 Jan 2015

A new Medisave scheme, which helps the elderly further reduce their out-of-pocket costs for outpatient medical care, can be used in addition to other schemes for outpatient treatment, Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min said in Parliament on Thursday.

The Flexi-Medisave scheme allows those aged 65 and above to use up to $200 of Medisave a year for outpatient medical treatment at public-sector specialist outpatient clinics, polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) clinics.

It kicks in on April 1, 2015.

The scheme, details of which were announced earlier this month, is part of an effort to expand the use of the national health savings plan, so patients can use it to cover more of their medical bill.

Dr Lam said the $200 from Flexi-Medisave can also be used over and above other outpatient Medisave limits, such as the $400 annual limit for the Chronic Disease Management Programme, and the recently-implemented $300 limit for outpatient scans.

He was responding to Associate Professor Fatimah Lateef (Marine Parade GRC), who asked if claims from the scheme can be used on top of others claims such as from the Chronic Disease Management Programme which is for outpatient treatment of 15 chronic diseases and has an annual cap of $400.

He added that Flexi-Medisave can be used for consultation fees, tests, drugs and other medical services needed to diagnose or treat a medical condition.

But it cannot be used for non-medical treatments and non-essential items, such as cosmetic surgery and skincare products.

Under the scheme, husbands and wives, if aged 65 or above, can also tap on their spouse's Medisave account if they do not have enough funds in their own account.

Dr Lateef asked in a supplementary question if the Health Ministry would consider allowing elderly patients to dip into their children's accounts if both their and their spouse's accounts were depleted.

Dr Lam said the ministry would consider the suggestion in future reviews.

He added: "Even as we continue to expand the use of Medisave, I would like to encourage all Singaporeans to spend it wisely so that it is enough for their healthcare needs over a lifetime."

Chuffed over CHAS
Under the Community Health Assist Scheme, lower- and middle-income Singaporeans get subsidised care at participating GPs and dental clinics. Linette Lai finds out what three card-holders have chosen to spend on.
The Straits Times, 12 Jan 2015

BEFORE she got her Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) card, frequent dental visits were never a habit for Madam Chia Fei Sin.

"I wouldn't go unless I had a problem with my teeth," said the 60-year-old. "At most, I would go once a year, or once every two years."

She has an upper set of dentures which she has to replace every seven years or so.

These cost $400 each, so she tries to make every set last as long as possible.

"They can get a bit loose," she said in Mandarin.

"But I usually put up with them until I really have to get a new pair made."

But with her blue CHAS card - which entitles her to a subsidy of up to $256.50 per procedure - she had her fourth set of dentures made last year for $180.

She had her teeth cleaned and a filling done for free as well, as the card covered the cost of these procedures.

She also uses the card at a general practitioner clinic near her home in Bedok when she falls ill, although she lamented that there is often a long wait.

"But I can do other things in that time - sometimes, I go grocery shopping - and I need to be thrifty, so it's all right."

Blessing for diabetes patient

SINCE being diagnosed with diabetes two years ago, Madam Shirley Auyeong has seen the doctor twice a month for consultations and medication.

However, she has not paid out of pocket yet because she is a CHAS card-holder.

The 57-year-old, who works in sales, has also made two dental visits - once for polishing and another time for crowning.

She was charged nothing for her first visit.

For the crowning procedure, which typically costs between $400 and $1,600, she paid around $350.

"Before, I would go to the dentist only when it hurt," she said. "Now, I think I will go for polishing twice a year."

She hopes the CHAS scheme can be extended to include head-to-toe health screenings.

"Getting a full-body check-up every year can be quite expensive," she said. "If CHAS could cover that, it would be good."

Cheaper visits to regular doc

MR MOHAMAD Sahat has been going to the same doctor for years.

"It's like a family clinic - this doctor takes care of my children and, basically, my entire family," he said.

The 67-year-old visits the GP every two or three months to get medicine to keep his diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol under control. Each medication run cost him more than $100 on average.

Only after Mr Mohamad received his CHAS card in 2013 did he start paying substantially less.

A year later, he also got his Pioneer Generation card, allowing him to pay even less at all clinics that accept CHAS cards.

In November, he chalked up a bill of $165 at his regular doctor, but was charged only $30 post-subsidy.

"It's very useful," the taxi driver said. "Last time, when I had no card, I would really feel the pinch."

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