Dr Amy Khor speaking on CareShield in Parliament

What is the intention behind CareShield?

To alleviate the problems that could arise as a result of the aging population in Singapore, the government has announced the new  CareShield which will eventually replace the current ElderShield. While the main selling point of this new measure is that it will pay out more than the Elder Shield, there are certain issues with the new package that are worth considering.

Firstly, there is a difference in premium amounts between males and females with females having to pay more. The justification for this difference in payment amounts is that women tend to live for a longer time than men and further, they tend to stay in disability for a longer time. In short, there are likely to be more payouts to women and as such women as a whole have to pay more.

I can understand private profit driven insurance companies needing to ensure that they do not lose out financially. But the CareShield is government run. Shouldn't its concerns be slightly different? The focus should be more helping Singaporeans on a needs based basis and not just a rigid adherence to what Actuaries say? Women do not need less help than men and if the government's intention is to help relieve the problems of an aging population, there needs to be a balance between pure profits and intention.

There is also the added concern that women generally tend to earn less than their male counterparts. Is it realistic to charge people who earn less more? These are very valid points raised by MPs such as Ms Sylvia Lim, Mr Melvin Yong and NMP K Thanaletchimi.

Secondly, if the CareShield is meant to offer a more comprehensive coverage than ElderShield, why is it that the CareShield will adopt the same eligibility criteria as that used in the ElderShield scheme? If the same eligibility criteria is utilised, will the new policy actually broaden the scope of assistance? Or will it just help the same pool of people a little bit more?

I suppose this goes back to the intention behind CareShield in the first place. Is it the government's intention to help more people or is it simply to help the same group of people a little bit more?

Also, if it is envisaged to help Singaporeans and is government run, then profits should not be a paramount concern. Women and men should be charged the same premiums unless doing so would lead the scheme to bankruptcy. Would it?

Dr Amy Khor has addressed some of the concerns in relation to the issue of the aging population. While all the intentions are laudable, I am not entirely sure if all the measures have translated or will translate to improved results. Khor has stated all the things they have done and hope to do but seems to have fallen short at pointing out what these figures actually mean.

For example, she said that "to date, some 8,800 patients have also benefited from the Institute of Mental Health’s (IMH’s) post-discharge “after-care” support, transiting smoothly from hospital to home." The figure of 8,800 means nothing if it is not compared against how many people needed help in the first place. I can help 10,000 people but if 1,000,000 needed help, then I wouldn't consider my plan to have been very successful.

Another example would be when she says "over the years, we have reviewed the salaries of nurses, which have increased in tandem with their expanding roles and responsibilities." What about inflation? Do nurse's salary increments match the rates of inflation? What is the percentage of increase and over what period of time?

The government is great at coming up with big picture ideas but unless these issues are fleshed out, I am not sure how effective these schemes will be.