Board’s statement on amount covered by CPF on medical grounds is misleading, says Suriia Das

CPF’s statement misleading, says Suriia Das whose application to withdraw his CPF savings to continue paying for his wife’s cancer treatment was denied by the CPF Board. Mr Das’ wife Mdm Sarojini Jayapal was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2016 and the couple have been fighting against the illness with everything they have since then.

Having emptied out both their MediSave accounts as well as Mdm Sarojini’s own CPF savings, the couple is left with few financial avenues to continue treatment at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, a private institution. They have resorted to borrowing money from moneylenders, friends, families and Mr Das’ company.

When Mr Das made an application to the CPF board to transfer the savings in his ordinary and special accounts into his wife’s MediSave account, it was denied on the grounds of age restrictions. The Board said that since Mr Das was not yet 55, he wouldn’t be able withdraw his savings.

CPF had also apparently advised the couple to seek treatment as a public hospital instead were care would be subsidised. Mr Das however, had come forward to explain that the reason they chose MEH was because other doctors in public institutions told them that there was nothing more they could do for her.

Narrowing in on the financial aspect of the situation, CPF had said that the sum arising from “CPF-allowed insurance schemes have paid out a total of S$510,000 to date while S$34,000 has been withdrawn from the CPF accounts of both Mdm Sarojini and Mr Suriia Das”.

Specifically, MediShield Life has paid out S$60,000 on top of additional private insurance coverage which comes up to S$300,000 paid out to date. This, they said, covers close to 90% of her medical bills. They noted that she has also been receiving S$1,100 a month under ElderShield and ElderShield supplement plans since October 2017, amounting to about S$23,000.

The CPF Board also confirmed that it had approved Mdm Sarojini’s application to withdraw all her CPF savings in her Ordinary and Special Accounts of about S$25,000 in 2017, based on PCC’s assessment that she was terminally ill, and that the couple had also withdrawn about S$9,000 from their MediSave accounts for her treatment.

“CPF Board’s Home Protection Scheme had also paid out $186,500 to fully redeem her outstanding mortgage loan,” said the agency in a statement.

In contrary, Mr Das said that while he appreciated the S$186,500 waiver on their outstanding HDB mortgage loan, the statement was inaccurate in other aspects.

“Statement released as in sum arising [from the] illness [was] $510,000 paid when actual up to date sum on medical ground is $323,500. Out of this, $34,000 is our money which was in MediSave. And AXA Insurance covers 90%, not CPF,” explained Mr Das.

“As released in the statement, CPF had paid on medical grounds $60,000. The rest is from our MediSave and AXA Insurance,” he asserted.

Insurance, not good will

We note that the CPF-allowed insurance scheme the Board mentioned in their statement refers to the Private Medical Insurance Scheme which allows CPF members to use their MediSave savings to buy Integrated Shield Plans – additional insurance coverage offered by private insurers.

Also, the Home Protection Scheme is a mortgage reduction insurance that protects members and their families against losing their HDB flat in the event of death, terminal illness or total permanent disability.

So on both counts, those schemes are ultimately insurance plans paid for by individuals from their own CPF savings. In its statement, CPF appears to have tried to attribute the money the family received as good will when it was actually money they are entitled to under those insurance plans.

On top of that, CPF still failed to answer the question of why Mr Das isn’t allowed to withdraw his own savings from his CPF account.