I asked this question during the 16 September 2013 sitting of Parliament. I wanted to find out how much more in claims MediShield is expected to bear under the proposed MediShield Life scheme, which is going to cover all Singaporeans, including those above the age of 90 and those with pre-existing health conditions. I was expecting the Government to have already done its actuarial calculations to arrive at an answer. However, the Minister was not ready to reveal the numbers yet (or perhaps the full calculations had not been done yet).Singaporeans will need to wait until at least next March (i.e., the Committee of Supply debate) to find out the details of the MediShield Life scheme.
One thing is clear: Claims are going to go up. The question therefore will be: How much more will premiums rise, and will the Government be prepared to step in the reduce the premium burden on Singaporeans?
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song asked the Minister for Health what is the projected annual increase in MediShield payouts if (i) all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are enrolled (ii) all pre-existing, congenital and neonatal conditions are covered and (iii) the maximum coverage age is removed.
Mr Gan Kim Yong (Minister for Health): Mdm Speaker, as part of the overall healthcare financing review to ensure that healthcare remains affordable for all Singaporeans, MOH is studying the introduction of better coverage for large bills and moving to life-long MediShield coverage for all Singaporeans.
As the move to MediShield Life is a major policy shift, we will have a public consultation exercise later this year to seek Singaporeans’ views on the proposed MediShield Life. The details and costs of the MediShield Life, including the likely impact on the payouts from MediShield Life if all pre-existing conditions and all residents are covered for life, are currently under study. More details will be shared during the public consultation exercise.
Mr Gerald Giam Yean Song (Non-Constituency Member): Madam, I have three supplementary questions. First, my concern is that the increased coverage will also come with higher premiums. While I support the increased coverage, my concern is that these higher premiums will be a financial burden on some members, especially the elderly and the low income. So, my questions are: Is the Government planning to subsidise MediShield Life premiums as part of its overall plan to increase the healthcare budget, because currently MediShield is completely self-funding and receives no Government subsidies? Secondly, can the Government provide more details about the Pioneer Generation Package that was announced during the National Day Rally? Would it be means tested and what is the cut-off age? Lastly, when will the full details of MediShield Life be announced?
Mr Gan Kim Yong : Mdm Speaker, first let me explain that today, the Government already indirectly subsidises MediShield because the Government provides top-ups into Medisave, and Medisave is being used to pay for the premium for MediShield. So, indirectly there is Government subsidy for MediSheild, particularly for the lower income. Going forward, with MediShield Life, as the Member has rightly pointed out, with enhanced benefits, the pay-outs will increase and that is the objective of enhancing the benefits, and therefore the premium has to go up as well.
The Government is very conscious about the impact of higher premiums and therefore we have already made the commitment that we will make sure that the lower income as well as the older Singaporeans who may not have sufficient savings will be looked after. We will make sure that the premiums, with Government subsidies, will be affordable for them. That is the first question.
The Member also asked about the Pioneer Generation Package. The details are being worked out now. In due course, we will reveal more details on who will qualify for Pioneer Generation Package, and what is provided for in the Pioneer Generation Package. I urge the Member to be patient and we will reveal that in time.
Last question is about the details of MediShield Life. We will have a public consultation. We are still working on MediShield Life and what form it will take. But the key parameter is that we want to make sure that all Singaporeans will be included and they will also be included throughout their lives. Therefore, we will remove the age limit on MediShield Life.
As for the other features, for example, how we can enhance the payouts, how we can help to reduce the co-payment especially for the larger bills, these are the details that the Ministry is working on now. During the public consultation, we will share more details. And we hope to be able to give even more details, and the broad shape of the scheme by the next Committee of Supply (COS) debate.