Opposition supports proposed Medishield Life bill but not without questions


The MediShield Life Scheme Bill was passed in Parliament with strong support from both sides of the political aisle, following a six-hour debate during which 24 Members of Parliament (MPs) rose to speak on the bill.

While parliamentary members of the opposition parties all supported the Medishield Life bill, they also raised concerns about the scheme that are relevant to citizens.

Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP), Gerald Giam asked if the Minister of Health could confirm if the provisions in the bill will enable means testing for the Medishield Life to be automated, such that individuals do not have to submit any additional forms to receive the premium subsidies.

He added if it is not automated, what would be the procedure for individuals to apply for premium subsidies, and how will Ministry of Health (MOH) ensure that the process is simple and convenient, especially for the elderly, people with disabilities or those with lower levels of literacy.

“Given the very tough premium recovery measures in Part 3 of this Bill, it is even more critical that no one misses out on their premium subsidies, if they are eligible.” said Mr Giam in his speech.

MP for Punggol East, Lee Li Lian talked about the premium loading for the Medishield Life for pre-existing condition in her speech.

She asked if the 30% would be a standard rate for all pre-existing conditions or it is a range of up to 30% depending on the severity of the pre-existing conditions. She also asked if the rate is guaranteed, in that the Insured would just pay normal premiums for the first 10 years or subject to claims and/ or premiums payment experiences. She noted that more details on what constitutes pre-existing conditions are not available.

Ms Lee gave a scenario where an insured was fully covered under Medishield, a few years down the road, the insured took up a private integrated shield plan and had conditions to be excluded. She asked if such conditions by the insured would be treated as pre-existing and be required to pay more premiums under Medishield Life.

MP for Hougang, Png Eng Huat raised concerns over the impact of Medishield Life on 32,000 pensioners.

Mr Png referred to the report by Public Service Division in July last year which said that ‘the other 60 per cent of the pensioners who are on older medical benefits schemes, which already provide better coverage than what Medishield Life will be providing,’ will have their premiums for Medishield Life paid by the Government. The reports said PSD will be writing to pensioners with more details on Medishield Life by October 2014.

He asked about the deductibles under Medishield Life that they have to bear apart from paying the premiums for these pensioners and their spouses. As pensioners under the Fixed Amount of Ward charges scheme (FAW), their public hospital bills are capped at $8 per day, Mr Png asked if the pensioners and their dependants would be paying the same rate under Medishield Life and whether would they be subjected to the deductibles under the Medishield Life.

“How much would these pensioners be paying under Medishield Life since the deductible for Class C ward is already $1,500 for policyholders aged 80 and below?” said Mr Png

At this point of Mr Png’s speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister-in-Charge of the Civil Service Teo Chee Hean stood up and asked Mr Png to clarify if he had said the pensioners would be worse off under Medishield Life. Mr Png replied by repeating his earlier point and said that he was merely quoting the newspaper report about what the PSD had mentioned.

Mr Teo emphasised to Parliament that Medishield Life will provide better coverage and benefits but did not answer Mr Png’s point about whether the pensioners would have to be subjected to the the deductibles of the healthcare scheme.

NCMP, Mrs Lina Chiam suggested that all excess premiums collected from Medishield and Medishield Life should be ploughed back to the Medishield Life Fund under Clause 7 of the bill to help lower the premiums payable by Singaporeans and permanent residents. She also suggested that there should be a plan for ‘cut off age’ for Medishield Life’s premium payment.

“A reasonable ‘cut off’ age like 80 should be applied.” said Mrs Chiam

She noted that since Medishield Life is a compulsory insurance medical scheme which spans the entire population, the premiums should be much lower than the existing Medishield premium provided by the private insurers.

Mrs Chiam said that the actuarial study on Medishield should be made public so that future projections of premiums to claims could be seen.

She noted that based on information released by the Minister of Health Mr Gan Kim Yong in 2011, Medishield surplus between 2001 to 2010 is $850 million and in 2011, only $282 million of Medishield claims were made.

She then asked if these figures indicate that the financial estimation for premium collection is excessively high, putting unnecessary financial burden upon the insured and if the Ministry of Health intend to put the surplus from the Medishield funds for healthcare use or simply into the government’s reserves.

To read the full speeches of the above parliamentary members. Visit the below links.

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