Parliament snippets: Replies but not answers?

by Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the report “Health minister replies on 3M queries and drug subsidies” (ST Breaking News, Mar 1).

It states that “Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed on Monday that the 3Ms account for 23 per cent of costs incurred by citizens and permanent residents who were warded in both public and private hospitals”.

Since Medisave is Singaporeans’ own money, and Medishield is also Singaporeans’ own money by way of insurance premiums that are pooled amongst all the insureds under the Medishield scheme, the only M of the 3Ms that is paid by the Government is Medifund.

The Health Minister also claimed that the Government “picked up a bulk of the tab, paying for 51 per cent of the bill in the form of subsidies, while employers and patients coughed up the remaining 27 per cent”.  However, the Minister may be just telling part of the “healthcare spending” story.

Healthcare spending

Did the Health Minister taichi away Sylvia Lim's questions?

Healthcare spending by definition, is not just “costs incurred by citizens and permanent residents who were warded”, it should include pre and post hospitalisation treatment, drugs, specialist and out-patient treatment, etc.

The share between public and private healthcare spending has been moving towards lesser public spending over the years, from about a 50/50 split to only about 25 per cent of public to 75 per cent private healthcare spending now.

Also, the fact remains that our public healthcare spending decreased by 0.6 per cent last year, according to the Budget, and at about one per cent of GDP, Singapore’s is one of the lowest in the world.

Non-subsidised drugs

In a written reply to Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim on Monday, the Health Minister said that the Health Ministry subsidises 55 drugs to treat cancer, and reviews its list of subsidised drugs regularly. He then gave a list of drugs which were subsidized.

I don’t think Non-Constituency MP Sylvia Lim’s question has been substantively answered, as there were no statistics given as to how many drugs are non-subsidised and whether they have increased in recent years.

Stay C Class but billed A Class?

It is a little known fact that if you stay in a hospital’s intensive-care unit (ICU) for say two months under C-class, but opt to upgrade to a higher ward class after discharge from ICU, for a few days, you will be billed the higher class charges for the entire duration of your stay in the hospital. 

Is it fair for patients to be billed the higher charges for their entire hospital stay, when they only stayed in a higher class ward at the end of their hospitalisation? 

The Ministry of Health should step in to review this unfair practice by hospitals.

No subsidies for workers injured at work?

Also, hospitals in the past, did not have a policy of not allowing subsidies when an injured worker is hospitalised in a subsidised ward.

Since the subsidy in class C is 80 per cent, an injured worker may have to pay up to five times more, out of his own pocket, when his hospitalisation and post-hospitalisation expenses exceed the cap of $25,000.

When was the policy changed to deny subsidies for industrial accidents, resulting in workers having to bear large medical expenses in excess of the $25,000 cap that employers are responsible for? Is it fair for a worker who through no fault of his own, be burdened with large medical bills arising from an industrial accident? Shouldn’t workers have rights to medical expenses arising from an accident at work? Did our unions or Parliamentarians object to such an erosion of workers’ rights to medical expenses arising from an accident at work?

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