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MOH rejects appeal of Singaporean retiree to use medisave for spouse’s emergency fees incurred in MOH-approved Malaysian hospital

"We note that your family are currently not residing in Singapore. Hence, we are unable to accede to your request. Should you have further concerns on managing any oustanding amount, we would suggest you approach the Business Office of Regency Specialist Hospital to discuss suitable financial arrangements."

This was the reply given to Mr Mokhtar bin Rahmat by Ministry of Health (MOH) on his appeal to use his Medisave to pay for medical expenses incurred during an emergency operation.

Sharing his experience in a Facebook post on 24 May, he shared that his wife was admitted to the A&E of Regency Hospital around two months ago. In total, the surgery and five days of hospitalisation stay came to a final figure of about RM$25,000 (SGD$8,400). Mr Mokhtar said that he managed to raise the amount by borrowing from friends and relatives.

The 60-year-old Singaporean retiree who has been staying in Johor, Malaysia for the past five years with his wife, said that he knew that the hospital that his wife was in, was a MOH approved hospital.

He said he has seen advertisements on buses about how the hospital is able to utilise Medisave.  He said, "Any Singaporean can have a surgery in that hospital. As it was Singapore approved. Check with it's website. It's written there."

And indeed, that is exactly what is written there at the hospital's website:

Regency is the first hospital in Johor Bahru to be approved by Ministry of Health, Singapore, for the use of Medisave overseas for approved hospitalisation and day surgeries.

As a Medisave accredited overseas hospital since 1 March 2010, Singapore patients seeking treatment at Regency are able to enjoy Medisave usage and take advantage of the lower cost of hospitalisation overseas.

The hospital, however, did note that Singapore patients who wish to use their Medisave in Regency must be referred through Health Management International (HMI)’s Medisave-accredited referral centre at Balestier Clinic & Health Screening Centre in Singapore, where pre-admission clinical assessment and financial counselling will be provided.

But still, the attending doctor knew that he had the intention to claim from his Medisave and advised him to visit the screening center and appeal for the use of his Medisave. The doctor even wrote a letter to support his appeal.

Explaining the medical condition of Mr Mohktar's spouse, the doctor asked that the patient be assisted with Medisave reimbursement.

After coming all the way back to Singapore and handing in his appeal letter to the centre at Balestier, MOH replied Mr Mohkatr saying that usage for local medical treatment is limited to patients who are Singapore Citizens or Permanent Residents of Singapore who are normally resident in Singapore. And because his family is not residing in Singapore, therefore they are not eligible to use their Medisave.

Puzzlingly, MOH's reply to Mr Mohktar does not seem to address the situation at hand. One would have assumed – based on the disclaimer on the hospital's website – that the problem Mr Mohkatr face is not seeking prior approval from the Balestier Clinic & Health Screening Centre to seek treatment in Johor.

M  Mohktar said, "Why can't I use my Medisave since it was a government approved? Am I being short changed? Furthermore, it was an emergency. My wife was bleeding. How to come back Singapore?"

And as per Mr Mohktar's explaination, that is impossible for him to seek prior approval, given that his spouse sought medical treatment due to an emergency.

Instead, MOH is declining Mr Mohktar's request to withdraw from his Medisave account because he and his wife is not staying in Singapore.

In what seems to be a standard template document passed to Mr Mokhtar by the doctor at Regency Specialist hospital, there does not seem to be a condition stating that the applicant has to be staying in Singapore to file for claims.

The Online Citizen has written to both MOH and the Regency Specialist Hospital last week, asking for the entities to explain the terms and condition of Medisave usage for Singaporean patients.  However, both have not replied to TOC's queries.

Mr Mohktar shared that his last statement of account in the CPF/Medisave was $37K (Medisave account only).

He asked, "Why am I not allowed to use my Medisave monies with black and white proof? What do you want from me? You want to see me die? Only then I could use my money? We are not elites earning millions of tax payers money."

He noted that he has spent over SGD$10,000+ in cash and counting. After the operation in March, his wife needs to return to the hospital every three days for check-up, which cost between 500-600 ringgit for consultation and medicine.

While he said that he didn't expect to claim much from his Medisave – Probably around SGD$1,000 to SGD$2,000 – he would still like to be able to claim from his Medisave account for the full bill payment which is about S$10,000.

"But .. I don't think that they would allow that." said Mr Mokhtar.

On the withdrawal of Medisave for his wife's medical bills, Mr Mokhat said to TOC, "I want justice. Not charity. That's all."