SDP Chairman Professor Paul Tambyah and SDP CEC member Khung Wai Yeen (Photo by Christopher Ang)

Do away with the 3Ms (Medisave, Medishield and Medifund) and introduce a single-payer insurance scheme for Singapore’s healthcare system.

This was the main proposal by the SDP which launched its healthcare plan at its office this afternoon.

Presented by its Chairman Professor Paul Tambyah and CEC member Khung Wai Yeen, the SDP said that the 3M system did not meet the healthcare needs of Singaporeans.

Mr Khung pointed out that Medisave is funded by taking a significant chunk from the people’s CPF funds, further eroding savings needed for retirement. At last count, reserves in Medisave stood at $88 billion.

Medishield Life is also lacking in that the deductible is as high as $3,000 which makes it hard for less well-off patients. The scheme also under-insures Singaporeans which is why we have to maintain a large Medisave account of about $50,000 per person.

The fact that numerous packages need to be introduced on an adhoc basis like the Merdeka and Pioneer packages is evidence of the problems with the current 3M system.

Prof Tambyah said that the SDP Plan would do away with the 3Ms and the funds in Medisave would be returned to the people’s CPF accounts.

These complex schemes would be replaced with the National Health Investment Fund, or NHIF, to which everyone Singaporean contributes an average of $50 a month (depending on income levels) through their CPF. This amount is lower than the current Medishield Life premiums.

The rest of the healthcare budget under the NHIF would be paid for through taxes collected by the government. The NHIF would cover every Singaporean for basic healthcare including accidents and pregnancy.

“This payment from a single source rather than multiple sources from the 3Ms eliminates the present complicated subsidy system,” Prof Tambyah explained.

And how would payments be made under the NHIF?

A patient pays only 10 percent of the hospital bill and the amount is capped at $2,000 per year. The remainder will be paid by the NHIF.

Prof Tambyah said that patients will co-pay hospital bills to “emphasise personal responsibility and reduce abuse by providers.”

The SDP Plan differs from the PAP’s system in one crucial aspect. The latter runs hospitals as profit-making ventures which consistently collect surpluses far in excess of the money spent taking care of patients.

“Healthcare is treated like a commodity where people avoid important primary healthcare services because of the costs and end up spending a lot of money treating complications that could have been prevented,” Prof Tambyah said. “As a medical professional, I feel that this is not right. We should ensure that there is equal treatment for all, care based on clinical need and not on ability to pay.”

Details of its policy are spelt out in its paper SDP’s National Healthcare Plan: Caring For All. The paper points out that under the current system, the financial burden is unfairly placed on the people through out-of-pocket payment, Medisave use or Medishield Life premiums.

The party says that the groundbreaking nature of its Healthcare Plan “puts the people’s well-being at the fore and centre.”

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