Punggol East By-Election: Rally Speech on 19 Jan 2013

When you go to the polls in one week’s time, vote in an MP who has the experience on the ground, has the heart to serve and has the ability to speak up for you in Parliament. Vote for the Workers’ Party. Vote for Lee Li Lian!

It is my pleasure and honour to be able to speak with you tonight. I stand here in support of the Workers’ Party’s candidate for Punggol East SMC, Ms Lee Li Lian.

Before I say a few words about her, I want to share with you about a topic that affects your life, whether you are young or old, rich or poor. I want to talk about the cost of healthcare in Singapore.

This is a topic that I am very concerned about. Since entering Parliament in 2011, I have raised healthcare cost issues many times with the Government.

Many senior citizens worry that it is “better to die than to fall ill in Singapore”. This is very sad. We are already a developed country by all economic measures. We have on of the highest GDP per capita in the world. If you are a senior citizen, you should not have to worry about not being able to afford your medical bills. Not after you have worked all your life to help build this nation. Yet in Singapore, this is one of the top worries of the elderly.

But it is not just old people who worry. If you are a young working adult, even you may be worried. Because very often, you have to pay for your parents’ medical expenses.

In 2010, out of the total amount of Medisave used for elderly healthcare expenses, 45% was withdrawn from their children’s Medisave accounts. These are not my numbers. This is a from a reply by the Health Minister to a question I asked in Parliament.

This means almost half of the total amount Medisave withdrawals for elderly patients come from their children. But what if their children are also struggling to make ends meet and raise their own children?

In Singapore, the elderly have to depend on their children to pay a large part their medical bills. The PAP government tells you: this is self-reliance.

The PAP government makes you set aside money in your Medisave accounts. You can only use Medisave to pay for certain types of medical expenses. Why? Because they don’t want you to use up your Medisave before you get old, and then depend on the government.

But then the PAP government tells you that you must use your Medisave before they give financial assistance to your parents for their medical expenses. What is the logic here? If you use up your Medisave paying for your parents, you will have little left for yourself when you grow old.

I have said in Parliament that if we are to achieve the goal of universal health coverage, we need to expand the coverage and increase the pay outs of our national health insurance scheme, MediShield. This will help to reduce the cash payments when you are seeking treatment.

Recently the Government announced some enhancements to the MediShield health insurance scheme. But this enhanced coverage will come at a cost – almost all of which will be borne by you, not the Government.

You will have to pay more in premiums every year, and the deductibles – the money you have to pay before receiving benefits – will increase by 50% for C-class ward patients.

Why is there a need for such steep increases in premiums and deductibles? Between 2001 and 2010, MediShield collected over $2 billion in premiums and paid out less than $1.3 billion in claims. This amounted to $850 million more collected than disbursed over the past decade. So MediShield is not exactly losing money.

The MediShield scheme has huge economies of scale and faces little competition for customers. I believe MediShield can take on greater risks on behalf of Singaporeans, while still maintaining healthy margins, if it can be operated more like a national social health insurance scheme, rather than a commercial, profit-oriented one.

The Workers’ Party will continue to press the Government to lower the healthcare burden on Singaporeans, so that if you fall ill, you don’t have to worry about financial hardship, but can just focus on getting well.

Voters of Punggol East, we are here tonight because we are asking you to vote our candidate into Parliament – Ms Lee Li Lian!

I have worked with Li Lian in many areas of Party work since I joined the Workers’ Party. Most recently we have been working together as part of the Workers’ Party Media Team.

I have three words to describe Li Lian: energetic, enthusiastic and empathetic.

Energetic, because she is always full of life, and full of energy. This is very important if she were to become your MP, because it is a job that requires a huge amount of effort and energy, both in the constituency, and in Parliament.

Enthusiastic because she knows what needs to be done and can rally the troops to get things done. So with her as your MP, you can be sure that she will solve constituency problems with great vigour.

And finally, empathetic. Li Lian is a people person. She genuinely cares for people and tries to help them.

I am confident that Lee Li Lian will be able to serve you with the same energy, enthusiasm and empathy as she has served constituents of Hougang and Aljunied GRC and in her party positions.

When you go to the polls in one week’s time, vote in an MP who has the experience on the ground, has the heart to serve and has the ability to speak up for you in Parliament.

Vote for the Workers’ Party. Vote for Lee Li Lian!

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.