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Health Minister Gan Kim Yong

Govt launches compulsory CareShield Life while optional ElderShield garners $3.3b with only $133m payouts

Ministry of Health announced on Friday (25 May) that it plans to implement the new CareShield Life in 2020. Those aged 30 to 40 in 2020 will be the first to join the scheme, which will be made compulsory.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday (26 May), Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said, "They (the committee) have worked very hard and consulted widely and put up a balanced set of recommendations that will significantly enhance ElderShield."

ElderShield, introduced in 2002, is an optional basic insurance scheme targeted at "severe disability", which is defined as the inability of an individual to perform three or more Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) independently. The scheme provides cash payouts of $300 or $400 per month for up to 6 years.

Under the new CareShield Life, the severely disabled will receive a higher cash payouts of at least $600 per month for life. But it comes with a price - in the form of higher mandatory premiums, which will be paid from a younger age.

MOH said that existing ElderShield policy holders can choose to join CareShield Life from 2021, and that the Government is looking into measures to encourage them to do so.

$600 not enough

People interviewed by the media, however, commented that the initial cash payout of $600 a month would barely cover their expenditure.

"It's enough for now because I'm still working," said graphic designer Benson Tiew, 38, who needs a wheelchair to get around after a traffic accident in 2002 left him paralysed from the waist down. "But it won't be enough for my living expenses when I stop working and have to live on my own with a domestic helper."

His 66-year-old mother is the main caregiver to him and his father, 69, who suffered a stroke 13 years ago.

Mr Tiew, who is on wheelchair after an accident, thinks at least $1,000 a month would be needed. His three younger brothers have to chip in to help pay the family's expenses.

Suresh Vanaz, 39, agrees that the payouts need to be higher. His brother has cerebral palsy and racks up $4,000 worth of hospitalisation, medication, transport and other living costs a month. "Financially, it's a good help, but it's still a very small amount," said Mr Suresh who replied nicely to the ST reporter. Suresh has been taking care of his brother for the past 12 years since their mother passed away and he has been working part-time to take care of his brother. Suresh thinks that the monthly payouts need to be at least $2,000 given his brother's situation.

Dr Marissa Lee Medjeral-Mills, executive director of the Disabled People's Association, also thinks that the payout needs to be higher than $600.

A young person, Mr Arwinder Singh, 28, interviewed wants the new scheme to be optional. "While it's a safeguard by the Government, I don't like not having the choice to opt out. People are more educated and we are more aware of what insurance we can take up," he said.

ElderShield already garners $3.3b

Meanwhile, it was also reported in the media that there were some 1.3 million ElderShield policyholders at the end of last year, with some $3.3 billion contributed into ElderShield. But only $133 million has been paid out in claims so far, leaving about $3.2 billion with interests in the fund.

It's not known what the government is doing with the $3.2 billion plus interests sitting around.

Dr Chia Shi-Lu, head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, who will be 50 years old in 2021, spoke highly of the new scheme. He said, "I would like to join once it is launched. And later joiners should also access the same assistance scheme as the new joinees."

Opposition member Lim Tean: PAP treating Singaporeans like walking ATMs

(Opposition member Lim Tean)

The announcement of the new CareShield Life scheme did not go down well with some of the opposition members, especially in light of the massive $3.3 billion garnered by the government from Eldershield and the lack of transparency from the government about the money it has collected.

"This so called CareShield Life compulsory scheme is the latest instalment by this PAP government of treating Singaporeans as walking ATMs," Lim Tean, an opposition candidate in the last GE wrote on his Facebook page.

"There was absolutely no consultation with Singaporeans to seek their views on whether they wanted such a scheme," he said.

"It is wrong in every aspect. It offers Singaporeans no choice in the matter. And the actuarial statistics from ElderShield are shocking to say the least," he added. "These schemes are just giant Money sucking machines at the end of the day! And now even our youths, who are already finding it tough starting out in life are going to be made to suffer even more."

"Whether you are the young, the millennials or the older generation, you should ask yourselves whether you will be better off with a non-PAP Government in 2020/2021."