New Govt powers – access to personal income status without consent

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Under new legislations for the implementation of the Medishield Life scheme, which will kick in later this year, the Government will have access to the personal income and health status of Singaporeans and permanent residents (PRs).

And they can do so without the permission of the persons being checked.

Gan
Gan

This was revealed in Parliament on Monday by Health Minister, Gan Kim Yong.

The move is aimed at curbing potential defaulters who may have the money to pay their Medishield Life premiums but who refuse to do so.

Medishield Life is a new compulsory health insurance scheme which will provide coverage to all Singaporeans and PRs.

Under the new legislations, the Government will have access to information ranging from one’s residential address to monthly income to one’s health status.

“Under a Bill tabled in Parliament today (Jan 19), authorised personnel from the Central Provident Fund Board and the Ministry of Health (MOH) will be able to tap into government and administrative databases to conduct eligibility checks for premium subsidies,” the TODAY newspaper reported.

In other words, the authorities have powers to check with the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS) and the hospitals on a person’s personal income or financial status and his health situation.

The Bill, however, grants an opt-out option for those who may feel such measures or powers are intrusive – but there is a catch to this: those who opt-out will not be eligible for income-related subsidies for their premiums.

In addition, they will also not be given the automatic clean bill of health which would qualify them for the 30 per cent waiver of premiums for 10 years for those who have pre-existing conditions.

“It was previously announced that those with pre-existing conditions will be covered under MediShield Life, at an additional premium of 30 per cent for a decade,” TODAY reported.

“Individuals can bar access to these records, but this will make them ineligible for income-tied subsidies, or result in them paying unnecessary additional premiums,” the paper added.

Among the powers which the Minister of Health will have under the new law, he will have similar powers to that of the taxman to recover owed premiums.

For example, the minister will have authority to “[get] employers to deduct the sum from a worker’s salary or getting the banks to do so from the person’s account”, the Straits Times said.

But the MOH said there are safeguards against potential abuse which comes with the new powers.

Anyone found to access, use or disclose the information without permission may be fined up to S$5,000,or  jailed up to a year, or both.

Additionally:

“Under the MediShield Life Scheme Bill, payment defaulters will have to pay penalties of up to 17 per cent of outstanding premiums and interest on late premiums. Other recovery measures — adapted from income tax laws — include sending warning letters and appointing agents, such as one’s employer or bank, to make payment from funds meant for the defaulter. Defaulters may also be sued.” (TODAY)

The Government has set aside some S$4 billion over the next five years to help members afford the premiums. But for most members, it is expected that their Medisave will cover the premiums fully.

People’s Action Party (PAP) Members of Parliament have welcomed the new legislations.

Tin
Tin

Marine Parade MP, Tin Pei Ling, described the new measures as “fair”, and that these were meant for the “wilful” who refuses to pay their premiums.

MP for Tanjong Pagar, Chia Shi Lu, who is also the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (GPC) for Health, said feedback from Singaporeans, particularly the elderly, were “unhappy with government agencies repeatedly requesting personal and financial information from them in order (for them) to qualify for schemes.”

With the new powers, now the government may not have to.