Saturday, 9 March 2019

CHAS subsidies for all Singaporeans with chronic illnesses from November 2019

New green CHAS card from November for all Singaporeans with chronic health conditions
By Rei Kurohi, The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2019

From Nov 1, all Singaporeans suffering from diabetes, hypertension or other chronic illnesses can tap the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) for subsidies, and those who already qualify for it will receive bigger subsidies.

The introduction of the new CHAS Green tier is for households with a monthly per capita income of more than $1,800 or a home with an annual value of more than $21,000.

Its holder can get up to $112 in yearly subsidies for a simple chronic condition, or up to $160 for a complex condition - meaning someone with multiple chronic conditions or one with complications.

Details of the new health assistance programme were announced by Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong in Parliament yesterday during the debate on his ministry's budget.

The CHAS Green tier is in addition to the existing CHAS Orange and CHAS Blue, which subsidise treatment for common illnesses, chronic health problems and selected dental issues for lower-to middle-income Singaporean households.

Last year, about 630,000 patients benefited from CHAS subsidies, Mr Tong said.

Singaporeans who were aged 16 and older in 1965, referred to as the Pioneer Generation, enjoy CHAS benefits regardless of income.

From Nov 1, members of the Merdeka Generation, who were born in the 1950s and are in their 60s now, will also qualify for CHAS benefits regardless of income.

Annual subsidies for the Merdeka Generation will be capped at $340 for simple conditions and $520 for complex conditions.

For common illnesses, the subsidy will be capped at $23.50 per visit. For dental services, the Merdeka Generation will get between $16 and $261.50 per procedure, depending on what it is.

This is higher than the CHAS Blue tier for households in the lowest income bracket with a per capita monthly household income of $1,100 or less, but not as high as what the Pioneer Generation receives.

Subsidies for current CHAS Orange and CHAS Blue cardholders will also be raised by $20 a year, from $300 to $320 a year for CHAS Orange and from $480 to $500 a year for CHAS Blue.

CHAS Orange cardholders can get a subsidy of up to $10 per visit for common illnesses from Nov 1. Currently, they do not get any subsidies for common illnesses.

"Collectively, we expect to pay out more than $200 million a year on CHAS subsidies," Mr Tong said.

He added that the Health Ministry is working on simplifying the CHAS application process to encourage more Singaporeans to sign up.

Online applications will be available from September this year.

Ministry of Health Committee of Supply Debate 2019

Rate of growth in healthcare spending unsustainable, says Gan Kim Yong
People must try to stay healthy even as system improves, he says
By Salma Khalik, Senior Health Correspondent, The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2019

Singapore is pumping in more money than ever on healthcare, but continued spending at current rates will not be sustainable.

The most effective way to keep healthcare affordable is for people to stay healthy, as unhealthy lifestyles are taking a toll on the system and affecting quality of life as Singaporeans age.

Speaking yesterday during the debate on his ministry's budget allocation for the year, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong shared that since 2010, national healthcare spending had almost doubled, from $11 billion to reach $21 billion in 2016.

Subsidies given out had also risen from $2.6 billion to $5.6 billion, pushing up government health expenditure, which increased by 2.4 times - from $3.9 billion to $9.3 billion.

"It is unsustainable for us to continue increasing our national healthcare expenditure at this current rate," Mr Gan said.

Healthcare manpower and infrastructure has been ramped up.

Mr Gan said that since 2010, the number of doctors here has gone up by 52 per cent and the number of nurses by 44 per cent.

Medical school intake has gone up from 300 to 500 a year, and the latest nursing intake of more than 2,100 students is a record high.

Seven new hospitals have been built, adding a total of 3,800 beds when fully opened.

But this trajectory cannot be sustained, he said. Individuals have to do their part in keeping healthy, and the healthcare system has to transform the way it delivers care.

An ageing population is only one part of the problem.

While people here are living longer, "for every 10 years we live, we spend more than a year in illness", said Mr Gan.

Life expectancy here had gone up to 84.8 years in 2017. The years lived in good health had also increased to 74.2 years.

"These figures also show that we are living about 10 years of our life in ill health," Mr Gan said.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu (Tanjong Pagar GRC), head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, had expressed disappointment that Singapore, once ranked the healthiest country in the world, had fallen to eighth place this year.

Mr Gan acknowledged that Singapore needs to work harder in its fight against chronic diseases.

Deaths from cancer, stroke and heart diseases had fallen by 16 per cent between 2010 and 2017 as a result of "early prevention, better treatment and disease management, which have contributed to our increase in life expectancy".

But he said that the prevalence of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels here had gone up by 4 per cent, 14 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively, among adults aged 18 to 69 between 2010 and 2017.

He said: "This is partly due to an older population, but also to unhealthy lifestyles and habits."

And while individuals need to get their act together, healthcare institutes too have been changing the way they treat patients.

An experiment by the National Healthcare Group polyclinics, where a team of medical and non-medical personnel looks after about 5,000 patients with chronic diseases, has resulted in improved outcomes, he said.

Polyclinics in the other two clusters are now following suit.

New ways to manage patients are also being tried out at the hospital level. About 4,000 patients have benefited from Alexandra Hospital's integrated model. This is now moving into the next phase, where it integrates hospital care with community services.

To keep people healthy, the ministry will offer free cervical cancer vaccines to young girls, better screening for cervical cancer and non-fasting screening for diabetes and cholesterol to encourage more people to screen for problems.

Mr Gan said: "But the most effective way to keep healthcare affordable is to stay healthy."

Six new polyclinics by 2023, with up to six more by 2030
By Felicia Choo, The Straits Times, 7 Mar 2019

Six new polyclinics will open by 2023, with another four to six more opening by 2030, in a bid to boost Singapore's primary care infrastructure.

The additions will bring the number of polyclinics from the current 20 to around 30 by 2030, Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Health, said during the debate on his ministry's budget yesterday.

The polyclinics to be completed by 2023 are in Bukit Panjang, Eunos, Kallang, Khatib, Sembawang and Tampines North, while those in Serangoon and Tengah will be ready by 2025.

The locations of the remaining polyclinics have yet to be finalised.

The Ministry of Health will also continue to redevelop existing polyclinics to meet anticipated demand.

The redeveloped Ang Mo Kio and Yishun polyclinics opened last year, while Pasir Ris Polyclinic is currently being redeveloped as part of the Integrated Transport Hub and will be more user-friendly with barrier-free access.

More Singaporeans to benefit from higher healthcare subsidies under revised income criteria by October 2019

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