The Online Citizen

“Don’t save face, go to C-class wards,” says Tan Kin Lian

“Don’t save face, go to C-class wards,” says Tan Kin Lian
December 14
17:49 2008

By Terence Lee / Youth Editor

13th DECEMBER — HEALTHCARE in Singapore is affordable as long as one is willing to accept the B2 and C-class wards without fear of losing face, said Mr Tan Kin Lian at a forum on economic rights.

He asked the audience: “Why complain about the bill when you go the the A-class ward?”

According to him, B2 and C-class wards are highly subsidised and of good quality, and a “cap on bill” exists to ensure medical fees in these wards do not escalate too much.

Held at the URA Centre on Saturday by the Society of Financial Service Professionals in conjunction with U60, the forum also saw financial consultants Leong Sze Hian and Lyndon Chew speak on different topics.

Singapore’s healthcare system enjoys a high world ranking, said Mr Tan, and this is due to the fact that responsibility for healthcare is placed on the individual. The state does not pay for everything, preventing overconsumption and keeping costs down.He also advised that Singaporeans stick with Medishield as it is adequate enough to cover medical costs in subsidised wards.

Mr Tan estimated that the lifetime cost of a private shield plan could run up to $100,000, but a Medishield plan will cost only about $40,000.

“If you are happy to contribute to the AIGs of the world, then its okay, you can go ahead,” he added.

“Some have told me: It’s better to die than to fall sick in Singapore,” said Mr Tan, citing a common refrain among lower income groups here.

“But is the situation really that bad?” he asked. “Apparently not.”

Singaporeans pay only about $800 for healthcare annually, constituting “less than 5%” of the nation’s GDP, he said.

This is in stark contrast with countries like the US and Germany, which stand at 15.3% and 10.7% respectively, he said.

A check with a World Health Organisation (WHO) report confirmed that Singapore ranked 6th in overall performance of the health system in 1997 (no later figures were available).

“The 3Ms — Medisave, Medishield, and Medifund, are there to help make healthcare services more affordable here,” he said.

He added that “healthcare costs are manageable, despite rising costs and the aging population.”

The biggest concern for Mr Tan, in fact, is that people are not educated about making the right choices when it comes to accessing and funding healthcare.

However, this is not helped by the lack of clarity about means-testing.

“If I’m a multi-millionaire, am I allowed to go to the C-class ward? The answer is still yes, just that I’ll enjoy less subsidies than someone from a lower-income household,”

“The Singapore system is so complicated — there’s too much criteria — that you are excused if you don’t know, even I myself don’t know until I found out!” he said in mock exasperation.