In Parliamentary debates earlier this month (Mar 2018), Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat announced that new Integrated Shield plan riders must feature co-payment of at least 5 per cent. Insurance companies will later stop offering the current zero co-payment schemes to new applicants.
The Integrated Shield plan riders are part of the national health insurance scheme Medishield Life. It is mandatory for Singaporeans to take up Medishield Life to ensure that they are adequately insured for any medical emergencies.
The current zero co-payment feature of full riders has resulted in a “buffet syndrome”, leading to over-consumption, over-servicing and over-charging of healthcare services, Minister Chee said.
At the moment, more than 1.1 million Singaporeans have these full riders.
The new co-payment scheme for riders will be available later in the year. In the meantime, insurers can continue selling their existing rider plans, but must inform new policyholders that they will transit to the new riders with co-payment before Apr 1 2021, he said.
"We expect the new riders to have lower premiums than full riders, so the switch will result in premium savings for policyholders," he explained.
NTUC Income increases full rider premium rates massively
Indeed, insurance companies have already started to increase the premium rates for their Integrated Shield plan full rider scheme, making the full riders a lot more expensive before the new co-insurance rules take place by 1 April 2019.
In the case of NTUC Income, it has published the new rates for their "Plus Rider (Preferred)" full rider scheme on its website.
When compared with the rates published 6 months ago, we can see that the rates have skyrocketed to nearly 60% in some cases, especially for those who are in the 66 to 70 year category.
Defaulters liable to be arrested
According to Ministry of Health (MOH) website, it said that all Singapore residents should play their part in paying their premiums in a timely manner. This ensures that MediShield Life is able to meet its commitments to all its members and pay out on claims, it said.
It said that it will provide "strong support" to help Singapore residents with their premiums.
"Active measures will also be taken to facilitate the payment of premiums, including deduction of premiums fully from Medisave balances, regular reminders, switch of payment arrangement to family members and Additional Premium Support for the genuinely needy," MOH said.
"However there may be a small group of defaulters who have means but choose not to pay premiums. The premium recovery measures are targeted at this group to discourage freeloading and ensure that they also pay their fair share of premiums."
But MOH did not explain how it deems someone who has the "means" but "choose not to pay" the premiums.
To those whom MOH deems to have the "means" but don't pay up, MOH said the government would do the followings:
- Appointment of defaulter’s agents (such as the defaulter’s employers, banks and tenants) to recover the outstanding premiums
- Offsetting outstanding premiums against one-off Government surplus-sharing transfers (e.g. Growth Dividends)
- Recovery from the Central Provident Fund (CPF) monies that are withdrawn in cash
- Imposition of travel restrictions in certain circumstances
- Legal action to recover the arrears
- Recovery from the defaulter’s hospitalization claim payout
"Penalties will be imposed on those who do not pay. Those who persistently delay premium payment may also have to pay back the interest lost to the MediShield Life Fund," MOH warned. "The interest may be compounded."
And if the person is informed that he is restricted from leaving the country until his Medishield Life premiums are paid up, but still tries to leave the country, he will be arrested, MOH stated categorically.