Sunday, 2 October 2016

Singaporeans living abroad can apply to suspend MediShield Life

By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 1 Oct 2016

Citizens living overseas who do not plan to return to Singapore will soon be able to apply to stop paying their MediShield Life premiums.

The Ministry of Health announced the move yesterday after accepting a recommendation made by the 12-member MediShield Life Council. Those who meet the requirements can apply to the Central Provident Fund Board from Oct 7.

The suspension, if granted, will continue as long as applicants fulfil the necessary criteria.

If they no longer do so or choose to relocate back to Singapore, they will have to pay the accumulated sum of premiums not paid previously, with compound interest.

But they will not need to fork out additional premiums for health conditions that developed during the suspension of MediShield Life premium collection.

Should they seek medical treatment in Singapore during the suspension, they may choose to claim and benefit from MediShield Life payouts, although this would mean stopping the suspension. Similarly, they would have to pay the full sum of unpaid premiums with interest.

"This was a complex issue and the council took into consideration the varying circumstances of different groups of Singaporeans," said Mrs Fang Ai Lian, chairman of the MediShield Life Council. The decision followed a review with input from Singaporeans here and abroad.

"Ultimately, our aim is to ensure that MediShield Life continues to meet the healthcare needs of all Singaporeans," she said.

MediShield Life replaced MediShield from Nov 1 last year. It offers higher claim limits for hospital bills and some outpatient treatments, covering pre-existing medical conditions previously not covered by MediShield.

While those living overseas should remain covered, a small group with no intention to reside in Singapore may apply for a suspension. But they should meet criteria, such as providing "supporting indicators" that they do not intend to return. Besides having a valid permanent residency permit in their country of residence, they must have lived outside Singapore for at least five years immediately before their application, except for short visits.

Applicants should also be able to afford healthcare treatment in the country where they live and declare that they do not need to rely on MediShield Life here.

Dr Lily Neo, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said if citizens do not intend to return, they likely have to pay for insurance where they are living and the suspension will help them avoid paying double.

Financial analyst Charisse Tay, 24, who works in the United States, agreed with having the choice to "opt out". But she added that the compound interest might deter some people from returning.

* MediShield Life premiums, interest support healthcare coverage for all

Ms Alicia Yin Yee Meng wrote that overseas Singaporeans would be deterred from returning to Singapore because they would have to pay compound interest on top of MediShield Life premiums ("Compound interest deters overseas S'poreans from returning"; Nov 26).

MediShield Life is a universal health insurance scheme that provides protection for all Singaporeans for life, regardless of their circumstances, background and health conditions.

Everyone contributes to the scheme as part of collective responsibility. This includes overseas Singaporeans, who remain covered under MediShield Life, and can benefit from MediShield Life whenever they seek medical treatment in Singapore.

The suspension of MediShield Life premiums is an administrative arrangement for a small and distinct group of overseas Singaporeans who live abroad permanently with no intention of residing in Singapore.

This group of overseas Singaporeans would have also declared that they are able to afford healthcare treatment in their country of residence and do not need to rely on MediShield Life in Singapore.

Those who later change their minds and relocate back to Singapore will have to pay the missed premiums accumulated during the suspension period.

The payment will also include the interest that these premiums would have earned in the MediShield Life Fund.

This is a fair arrangement, given that other Singaporeans have made regular MediShield Life premium payments, which have been accumulating interest in the fund.

Overseas Singaporeans who relocate back to Singapore and are unable to pay their share of premiums can apply for additional premium support to help them with the payment of their MediShield Life premiums.

Lim Bee Khim (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Health
ST Forum, 30 Nov 2016

Compound interest deters overseas Singaporeans from returning

It is fair that overseas Singaporeans have been given the right to opt out of the MediShield Life scheme ("Singaporeans living abroad can apply to suspend MediShield Life"; Oct 1). But a Singaporean who opts out and later decides to return faces compound interest on top of paying the full backlog of premiums.

Many Singaporeans who have worked abroad for decades would be deterred from returning to Singapore because they have to pay compound interest on top of decades' worth of premiums.

They should not be charged more than if they had not opted out, particularly since they derived no benefit from the health insurance policy in the years when they were abroad.

The Ministry of Health should reconsider its position on charging interest, as this would act like a penalty and deter Singaporeans from returning.

Alicia Yin Yee Meng (Ms)
ST Forum, 30 Nov 2016

Government Accepts Recommendations of MediShield Life Council on Implementation of MediShield Life for overseas Singaporeans

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