By Leong Sze Hian

In the Channelnewsasia report titled “PM Lee suggests hospitals implement means testing to help the poor”, it says: “Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has suggested that hospitals implement means testing to help the lower income group.” (CNA)

Since the reason for increasing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was to help the poor, why are we now saying that we need to have means testing to help the poor again?

According to media reports, average hospital bills went up by 10 to 30 per cent from 2005 to last year, with the highly subsidised class C wards chalking up the highest percentage increase. (TODAY)

Rising healthcare cost

Those who stayed in class C wards last year paid an average of $1,112 – a 30 per cent leap from 2005’s average of $858. Private patients, who do not receive any subsidies, typically paid 10 per cent more last year compared with 2005.

In contrast to the 30 per cent in class C, the Medifund amount disbursed in 2006 increased by only 3 per cent to $40,513,300, from $39,206,287 in 2005. (MOH)

The cost of healthcare has gone up and may increase some more because polyclinic and hospital fees have increased, means testing is being planned for those staying more than five days in subsidised hospital wards, ElderShield premiums have been increased, and the Singapore Medical Association has withdrawn its fees guidelines.

Means testing started last year for the Early Intervention Programme for Infants and Children (EIPIC) (children with disabilities) and Community Integration Services (CIS) (elderly with disabilities).

Subsidies for permanent residents and foreigners are being reduced or removed, and means testing has been applied since 2000 to elderly step-down care services such as community hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, day rehabilitation centres and home care services.

Government expenditure on healthcare

It is interesting to note from the above that a family household with per capita income of just $301 ($903 household income for three persons) has to pay 50% (50% subsidy) under means testing for elderly step-down care.

The obvious question to ask is: Has “Government Operating Expenditure on Health as a Per Cent of Total Government Operating Expenditure”, been going up too?

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH),

“Government Operating Expenditure on Health as a Per Cent of Total Government Operating Expenditure” for 2005 was 8.1 per cent (as published in DOS Singapore 2006 Statistical Highlights)”.

This is a reversal of the declining trend, which according to the Department of Statistics” (DOS) “Singapore, 1965 – 1995 Statistical Highlights : A Review of 30 Years’ Development”:

“Government Operating Expenditure on Health as a Per Cent of Total Government Operating Expenditure”, declined from 9.5 per cent in 1970 to 7.8 in 1980, and 6.5 in 1990.

However, according to the MOH’s website, Government Health Expenditure/Total Government Expenditure (%), the figure for 2005 was 6.3 per cent.

Why does the DOS data (8.1%) differ so much from the MOH’s data (6.3%)?

May I suggest that MOH corrects this error on its website?


Read also:

Hospital bills up 10% to 30% across all ward classes. (TODAY)

After 10 years, CGH ups A&E fee. (CNA)

New fee hikes at public hospitals and polyclinics. (Straits Times report)

Who can afford Singapore anymore? (Littlespeck)

July CPI up 2.6% on GST and rental increase. (Straits Times)


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