Medifund: Transfer to reserves instead of helping the poor?

by Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the recently released Key findings of the Singapore Census 2010.

With the findings showing that the population has grown by 26 per cent in the last decade to 5.08 million it may mean that the number of Singaporeans who can’t afford healthcare has also increased. This may be one of the reasons why the Government has been topping up the Medifund Endowment Fund  over the years.

Surplus transferred to protected reserves

The Medifund annual report says that over $64 million in Medifund was given out last year, and a  surplus of $10 million will be converted to protected reserves when there is a change over of government – that is, before the next general election. It will then become part of the capital fund, which cannot be used by the Government. Only the president can authorise its use.

Use surplus to help poor patients

Since the Ministry of Health has announced that it is seeking views and suggestions from the public as to what its Budget should focus on (“Tell MOH what its Budget should focus on”, Channel News Asia, Jan 10), I would like to suggest that the surplus of $10 million, be used to fund the needy who cannot afford polyclinic fees, since Medifund cannot be used for polyclinic out-patient fees, instead of converting it to protected reserves.

Source: nusps.org

Needy Singaporeans may be reluctant to visit polyclinics, and thus be deprived of the benefits of early detection and treatment.

By requiring that Medifund can only be applied for, when one is hospitalized or need specialist treatment, may actually cost more in the long run, when the medical condition may already be more serious, more complicated and more costly to treat.

Surely, using surplus funds to help needy Singaporeans is more important than transferring to protected reserves.

Using the average $10 polyclinic consultation and medicine fee, the $10 million can help a million needy Singaporean polyclinic visits.

Including the above $10 million, since the cumulative protected reserves from Medifund is $76 million, the two amounts in total could have provided about 8.6 million free polyclinic visits to needy Singaporeans, over the last nine years.

Use Budget to help the poor?

Practically every year, there are lengthy debates in Parliaments about using the Budget surplus, which is estimated to be $6 billion this year, to help low-income earners (“Govt can use surplus to help low-income earners”, ST, Jan 13).

More than a billion dollars has been charged to the Budget over the years, to top-up the Medisave Endowment Fund to help needy Singaporeans who can’t afford to pay for healthcare costs incurred. And yet, as explained above, Medifund ends up once again with a surplus that will be transferred to the protected reserves?

Does this make any sense to you?

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