Monday 15 June 2015

Pioneer Generation healthcare subsidies: MOH replies

Madam Rosalind Tham Pui Ying highlighted some feedback she received from pioneers regarding their Pioneer Generation benefits ("Address seniors' concerns about healthcare subsidies", May 31).

Pioneers who are receiving treatment at subsidised specialist outpatient clinics (SOCs) in public hospitals will receive an additional 50 per cent off the net bill for subsidised services and medications.

Pioneers who are private patients and wish to enjoy this subsidy can apply to switch to the subsidised SOCs.

Pioneers who switch to subsidised care will continue to receive quality care, but may not continue to see their current doctors, as subsidised patients are managed by a team of doctors.

Madam Tham also shared that many Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) clinics appear to have increased their consultation fees for pioneers.

Prices charged by CHAS clinics vary, depending on various factors - such as the patient's medical condition, treatment and medications provided, and the length of the consultation.

They may also be revised from time to time as the clinics' operating costs rise.

The Ministry of Health closely monitors the CHAS claims submitted by clinics.

We take a serious view of cases where clinics are found to have misused or abused government subsidies for their own financial gain.

We encourage clinics to make charges more transparent to patients by displaying their common charges, such as consultation fees, prominently, and advise both patients and clinics to clarify issues such as the proposed treatment and estimated charges before proceeding with the treatment.

The public can contact us on 1800-ASK-CHAS (1800-275-2427) to provide feedback.

Timely feedback can help us to look into any potential cases of abuse and facilitate investigation.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 14 Jun 2015

Address seniors' concerns about healthcare subsidies

I am a Pioneer Generation ambassador.

On my rounds meeting senior citizens, I often hear feedback that they cannot get subsidies on consultation fees if they continue to see specialist doctors whom they have been seeing for many years.

To enjoy the Pioneer Generation benefit, they have to be looked after by a panel of specialist doctors.

It is discomfiting for seniors, especially those 70 to 90 years old, to change their doctors after seeing them for many years and having cultivated a high level of trust.

I understand that the Government wants some flexibility in allocating the already stretched resources of the specialists.

But surely there is another solution, where seniors are given a choice instead of an ultimatum?

Perhaps seniors who have been consulting a specific specialist could be allowed to retain their doctor, but at a lower subsidy.

Another piece of feedback I get is that many Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) clinics have increased their consultation fees.

This means that even with the Pioneer Generation subsidy, seniors end up paying about the same amount as before.

Hence, seniors sometimes go to polyclinics instead, defeating the purpose of CHAS.

To alleviate this problem, CHAS clinics could be required to display their consultation fees and be transparent in their pricing on receipts.

Very often, clinics charge a lump sum for consultation and medicine, and handwritten receipts are common.

It has been nearly a year since the Pioneer Generation Package was implemented. I hope something can be done in response to our seniors’ feedback.

Rosalind Tham Pui Ying (Madam)
ST Forum, 31 May 2015

Call for more to help pioneers
By Priscilla Goy, The Sunday Times, 28 Jun 2015

A team of around 2,600 "ambassadors" have helped more than 90,000 senior citizens over the last nine months by explaining the benefits of the Pioneer Generation package to them.

Minister of State for National Development Maliki Osman and Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob revealed the figures yesterday and called for more people to volunteer as Pioneer Generation ambassadors.

Dr Maliki said: "It's more than just having ambassadors who go out and explain the package to the pioneers, but also a simple message that average Singaporeans are going out to meet our pioneers and telling them 'thank you for all that you have done for us'."

Pioneer Generation ambassadors, who have to be at least 17 years old, go through training to familiarise themselves with details of the package and learn communication skills.

They are expected to try to commit an average of four hours a week to visiting pioneers at their homes, and receive a nominal out-of-pocket allowance for each pioneer they help.

Madam Halimah acknowledged that the task is not always easy, saying: "I get feedback that sometimes the pioneers are not willing to open their doors; because they are old and living alone, they're a bit more careful.

"If the message goes out that there are ambassadors going to reach out to them, then they'd be more willing to open their doors because this is for their own benefit."

Dr Maliki and Madam Halimah were speaking to reporters yesterday after a Malay dialogue about the Pioneer Generation package and the ambassadors programme.

About 60 people attended the event, which was organised by the Pioneer Generation task force. It is the second of three sessions to better engage Malay/ Muslim families during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Mr Ibrahim Mohammad Ismail, a programme coordinator for the Pioneer Generation Office, said: "It is a noble way of reaching out to pioneers. We want to tell them that we respect and appreciate them."

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