Medisave use for patients over 75

The Workers’ Party (WP) had in fact proposed in its 2011 Manifesto that “Medisave withdrawals for outpatient medical treatment should be further facilitated (e.g., for specialist and major outpatient services), subject to a cap on usage” and that “patients above 75 years old should be allowed to use Medisave for medical treatment without restriction”

Ms Sangeetha Bysheim wrote in to the TODAY newspaper on 7 July appealing for her 75-year old diabetic father to be allowed to use his Medisave to pay his full bills for his regular check-ups and medication. Currently only about 20 per cent of his bill can be charged to Medisave and the rest has to be paid in cash. She explained that her father has a lifetime’s worth of savings in his Medisave and argued that this was a perfect age to start tapping fully on the funds.

In their reply today (July 9th), the Ministry of Health reiterated the government’s long-standing position that they want to “manage the extended use of Medisave funds carefully to prevent the premature depletion of members’ funds”.

The Workers’ Party (WP) had in fact proposed in its 2011 Manifesto that “Medisave withdrawals for outpatient medical treatment should be further facilitated (e.g., for specialist and major outpatient services), subject to a cap on usage” and that “patients above 75 years old should be allowed to use Medisave for medical treatment without restriction” (Healthcare chapter, pg 37).

I had also raised this proposal during my General Election Rally speech on May 2nd at Moulmein-Kallang GRC. The proposal came at the tail end of a long list of other proposals on public housing and healthcare that I had expounded on in my speech.

At the time, I thought that it might have been a more niche issue that wouldn’t find much resonance with the crowd. To my surprise, when I read out that line, there was a huge cheer from the crowd (even though I didn’t exactly deliver it with much emotion or emphasis).

I believe the liberalisation of the use of Medisave for elderly folks is an important issue to many Singaporeans. I share Ms Sangeetha’s sentiments that 75 is a perfect age to start fully tapping on Medisave funds.

The life expectancy at birth in Singapore is now 79 years for males. How much longer does the government want to “extend the use of Medisave funds” for these elderly folks? Until they die?

In my opinion, a 75-year old drawing down on his Medisave funds is in no way “depleting it prematurely”. Even if a 75-year old were to live until 85 and deplete all his Medisave funds, there are other sources of funding like family support or Medifund that can kick in.

However, if an elderly person were to pass away before using up all his Medisave funds, what could have been used to relieve his financial burden and that of his children would effectively be wasted. Ironically, it is even possible to tap on Medifund if the expense doesn’t meet the Medisave withdrawal criteria, and one is destitute enough to qualify. This puts an unnecessary burden on the State, which is exactly what the government is trying to avoid — not that I don’t think the State should pick up a bigger tab for healthcare, but I’ll leave that for another debate.

Even though the balance is passed to his family (or whoever he nominates), the Medisave still has not served its intended purpose at the time when it was most needed. Therefore, restricting the use of Medisave for people over 75 years not just burdens the patient and his family, but is a poor allocation of resources.

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

10 thoughts on “Medisave use for patients over 75”

  1. The medical coverage under the Medisave Scheme should encompass every living soul irregardless of age and conditions. It truly looks absurd having to disqualify or excluding an individual when his medical conditions is in the dire condition.

  2. Even if medisave is not allowed for use to pay the full amount incurred when one reaches 75 year old of age for ‘C’ Class treatments, it can at least be extended to 70%. 20% is definitely too restrictive and whenever possible, the income(s) of the patients’ child(ren) should be factored in. Those with children having steady incomes should be allowed to use their medisave accounts for paying their elderly parents’ medical treatments and hospitalizations.

  3. There are policies which i will support & there are those which i completely disagree & this happens to be one.

    Why in the world isn’t someone permitted to use all his Medisave if that is what is indeed required for him to payoff his medical bills? I don’t even understand the logic behind age 75 simply because you can’t determine when you fall ill, how long you fall ill, what illness, & when yr time is up.

    1) First, the monies are ours, its like putting money in a bank, say Savings Acct & Current Acct (Medisave). And now, the Bank tells you, you can withdraw only certain amount, at certain age at certain time, where’s the logic to this?

    2) Second, as it is, quite a fair % of citizens will be having retirement problems due to so many reasons from, housing prices, medical costs, education costs, stagnant/depressed wages, FT competition, almost non-existence social benefits, & they STILL expect you to pay cash? Mind you, cash that you already have in your Current Account (Medisave)but they want you to withdraw from your Savings Account which is already being used to pay all the above.
    Isn’t this making a bad situation worse?

    Then what’s the use of having Medisave when you can’t withdraw all of it?
    We might as well say stop the Medisave, keep it simple. Everybody buys compulsory health insurance, with no deductables/ co-insurance where a person can withdraw the FULL amount up to age 85. The premiums should be very low since there’s economy of scales.
    Then transfer all the Medisave Money to the Ordinary Acct & release this monies to citizens when they reach age 55 since both the CPF withdrawal limit & age has increased.

    Or alternatively, immediately release the Medisave monies back to citizens, so they can use these monies to pay the yearly Insurance Premiums as this will help relieve the burden for some families to pay cash. After all, isn’t Medisave their own money?

    IMHO, I really hope they will do something concrete about this Medisave issue as it obviously doesn’t benefit citizens, in my view.

  4. I see some similarity here between the Medisave account and our ordinary account. At the end of the day, it seems like its getting harder for us to withdraw nor utilise our own savings.
    The withdrawal age for the ordinary cpf account has been push up several times and even so, the minimun sum has been up a few times (the recently one was in july 2012, citing inflation as the reason) With this ruling, how many average singaporeans will truely be able to withdraw their funds during their retirement? Most of our funds are already tied up with housing loan (housing is another issues too). With this restriction on the usage of our medisave, it seems like again we are deprive of using our own savings for our own health. It really doesn’t make sense at all!!!

    What is the point of having 30k to 80k of medisave in our account when you turn 75years old only to be told that you are not allowed to fully untilise it??? Are we going to buried them with us when we pass on? So much so of my criticisim.

    I had a suggestion, a contribution if you may put it that way. My suggestion is simple, For example:

    at age below 45 years – current 20% usage of medisave remains
    46 years to 55 years – increase to 30% coverage from medisave
    56 years to 60 years – 35%
    61 years to 70 years – 45%
    71 years to 74 years – 55%
    75 years onwards – at least 75% coverage from medisave account

    If you are aware, you will notice that the percentage point of our cpf funds contributed to our ordinary account decreases as we aged thus making our contribution to the special and medisave account higher.

    With this higher contribution to the medisave account, it is therefore asbolutely workable to increase graduately the % usage of our medisave to cover all sorts of medical related expenses.

  5. My apologise… the funds can be passed on to the immedate family or the person he nominates… but then again.. whats the point if again the nominated party faces the same issue???

  6. It was said that medishield is more generous than medisave.Can some more knowledgeable person confirm this please.
    I have recently been thinking if fate has protected a person so well that he has not made any substantial claim up to the age of 70 and has never been hospitalised but only once for one day ,after a cataract operation to allow him to make a claim for payment of the operation.
    Why can’t such a person be given rebates for saving the money of the Insurer? Increase the premium rates of especially the rich who are sickly and make large claims regularly.Has there been some thought given to such a system of REBATE to encourage more people to keep healthy.
    Daniel Gwee

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