Gerald Giam (Giam) from the Workers’ Party (WP) has raised questions in Parliament in relation to the Medishield Life premiums. In particular, the Aljunied Group Representative Constituency (GRC) member of parliament (MP) has asked Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr. Koh Poh Koon (Koh) to release actuarial reports for the Medishield Life scheme as a means to accurately calculate premiums and benefits.
As readers will be aware, the Government has recently announced potential hikes to the Medishield Life scheme, which is compulsory for all Singaporeans. This means that there is no means for anyone to opt out and the increased premiums will be imposed on them whether or not they like it.
With this in mind, it makes complete sense for full actuarial reports to be released to the public. After all, if you are imposing increased premiums on a mandatory scheme, shouldn’t you aim to be as transparent and accountable as possible?
It is also imperative to remember that other countries with national insurance schemes such as Taiwan, already release such reports as a matter of course.
Releasing such reports will help quell disquiet if there are to be necessary increments and will also prevent unnecessary increments – especially at a time of global economic downturn when people are already feeling worried and squeezed.
Koh’s response is therefore rather surprising.
Giam’s request is reasonable and logical. However, instead of agreeing to the release of the full report, Koh said that the Government would “consider” releasing more actuarial calculations to external consultants and academics for further analysis and to challenge assumptions.
What is there to consider?
Actuarial reports are not airy fairy assumptions. They are calculated by high level professionals and are meant to be objective.
Why not just release the full report instead of piecemeal calculations?
Besides, isn’t such data already analysed by external third party consultants? If not, why not? Who then is making objective decisions based on objective data?
Koh’s response, far from reassuring, is giving the impression that the Government has something to hide, even if that is not true. After all, isn’t it easier to release a full report periodically rather than bits and pieces of information at an unspecified time?
It is also noteworthy that apart from being the Senior Minister of State for Health, Koh is also MP for Tampines GRC and deputy secretary- general for the National Trade Union Congress. Given that there is a potential conflict of interest between his political role as minister and MP and as a trade union leader, in what role is he answering Giam’s questions?
As a union leader, Koh should (as a matter of course) be protecting the workers and the premiums they have to pay in this mandatory Medishield Life scheme that workers have to pay into. As Senior Minister of State for Health and as MP, Koh’s loyalty would likely be to the Peoples’ Action Party.
Can Koh really wear these two hats and still be impartial?
Is it even possible?