Wednesday, 2 November 2016

MediShield Life helps more people a year on

More get help with medical bills under MediShield Life
Payouts higher under universal insurance scheme but premiums have also gone up
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 1 Nov 2016

One year after Singapore introduced the MediShield Life universal insurance scheme, more people are getting help with their medical bills - with payouts on the rise.

Nearly 400,000 claims were made between last November and September this year, and more than $600 million was paid out.

Of this, $102.5 million went to people who were previously uninsured, a Ministry of Health spokesman told The Straits Times. Over the same period in the previous year, $307.5 million was disbursed for 291,500 claims under the old MediShield.

MediShield Life was launched on 1 Nov 2015. It covers every Singaporean and permanent resident for subsidised care for life.

Previously, those too old or sick were not covered. It is not known how big this group was.

Within it, 25,000 people deemed to have a serious pre-existing disease have to pay 30 per cent more in premiums for the first 10 years.

Now, the previously uninsured are covered - and getting more in payouts. They made 65,000 claims and received slightly more per claim - $1,577, compared with other policyholders who got an average of $1,539. Both are higher than the average claim of $1,271 under the old MediShield, before the better coverage by MediShield Life kicked in.

One such patient was Madam Yuen Soh Ying, 92, who fractured her hip in April. She needed surgery followed by rehabilitation at a community hospital.

Her subsidised hospital bill still topped $10,000. Before Nov 1 last year, Madam Yuen would have had to pay all of it with Medisave or cash. But with MediShield Life, $6,600 of her bill was picked up by the scheme. Medisave took care of most of the rest, leaving only $100 to be paid in cash.

MP Joan Pereira, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said: "The impact and support afforded by MediShield Life's enhanced benefits would be more pronounced as the population ages."

There is a trade-off. Premiums rose, mounting to $1.75 billion in the 11 months from its launch, compared with $685.7 million in the same period the previous year. The premium per person is between $130 and $1,530, depending on age.

Of the total, almost half was subsidised by the Government.

Premiums collected, minus subsidies given, will be invested in Special Singapore Government Securities as these have long-term stability, said Ms Fang Ai Lian, who chairs the MediShield Life Council.

The council also decides on appeals, including requests from Singaporeans living abroad who do not plan to return here to live, to be excluded from the scheme.

It announced a month ago that they can be "suspended" from the scheme, but will have to pay the full unpaid premiums plus interest if they return permanently and require medical treatment.

About 200 people have applied for such exemption, Ms Fang said.

As for appeals, such as for more subsidy, she said that not only did the council have to consider the "unique circumstances" of each case, but the solution also has to be consistent and fair to all.

Nearly half of MediShield Life claims paid went to those above 65
By Linette Lai, The Straits Times, 9 Nov 2016

Nearly half the claims paid out under MediShield Life in the first 11 months of its roll-out - or some $282 million - went to Singaporeans aged over 65.

This is nearly double the $151 million payout to seniors under the old MediShield scheme over the same period the year before, said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong yesterday.

He was responding to a question from Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Joan Pereira, who asked how the Ministry of Health (MOH) can be sure that MediShield Life and the Pioneer Generation Package are enough to meet the needs of the elderly in Singapore.

"MediShield Life now provides lifetime protection for large hospitalisation bills for all Singaporeans," Mr Gan said.

"MOH will continue to review affordability and coverage of healthcare for the elderly, while ensuring that our healthcare financing system remains sustainable."

He added that the average senior Singaporean got more in payouts under MediShield Life.

Each senior got around $1,639 per claim under the new universal insurance scheme, compared with $1,425 under the old MediShield.

Under the old scheme, certain groups - such as those with pre-existing medical conditions - were excluded from coverage. Insurance coverage also stopped at age 92.

MediShield Life, launched on Nov 1 last year, is a national health insurance scheme offering Singaporeans and permanent residents subsidised care throughout their lifetimes.

Since the scheme was first announced, the authorities have taken pains to make sure that Singaporeans - especially those from the older generation - understand it.

The outreach efforts include organising roadshows, making videos in Malay, Tamil and various Chinese dialects, and setting up free consultations at community clubs and residents' committee centres.

Between last November and this September, a total of 400,000 MediShield Life claims were made and $614.3 million paid out.

Over the same period in the previous year, $307.5 million was disbursed for 291,500 claims.

In response to Ms Pereira, Mr Gan added that the Pioneer Generation Package has also provided more than $700 million to over 400,000 people since its launch in 2014.

Yesterday, Hougang MP Png Eng Huat asked how many people have not paid their MediShield Life premiums, and how much is owed.

Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat said that as of September, around 51,000 residents had unpaid premiums. These amounted to $12.8 million, representing less than one per cent of total premiums due.

The outstanding premiums included those from overseas Singaporeans, as well as people who could not be contacted.

"We are reaching out to remind Singaporeans and help them with their MediShield Life premiums," said Mr Chee. "The Government has provided subsidies to help Singaporeans pay for their MediShield Life premiums."


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