COVERAGE FOR MEDISAVE AND MEDISHIELD COULD BE EXTENDED.

Hetty Musfirah Abdul Khamid of Channel News Asia reported that the Ministry of Health in Singapore will continue to explore ways to make sure healthcare remains affordable in Singapore:

This may include extending the coverage of Medisave and MediShield schemes.

The Ministry will also study how to make it easier for patients to undergo day rehabilitation programmes.

Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan raised these ideas at a dialogue session on the healthcare budget, at the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

During the one-and-a-half-hour session — attended by about 100 members of public — questions concerning costs for the chronically ill were raised.

One of them was if Medisave could be used for outpatient post-acute care.

“We try not to prescribe what the money can be used of, so we just say (that for) every Medisave account, you can withdraw up to S$300 per year,” Mr Khaw said.

He added that some may say that S$300 is not enough because some types of medicine are quite expensive.

“… (But) in time, I’m quite sure that we will review these limits of S$300. It can be (raised up to) S$350 or $400 in due course, but I think there is some avenue of financial capacity there, which we certainly will take a look, and if indeed it is a hindrance, we can try to help out,” Mr Khaw said.

Mr Khaw also noted that many patients have difficulty getting to day care rehabilitation centres

“Transport has emerged as one major obstacle.

“In fact last week, I just discussed with my colleagues at the Ministry of Health to study more deeply into this topic of transport.

“There is no use (in having) very good day rehab centres, but (are) not well used, or which not many people are taking advantage of.

“I believe that transport is a key factor, and I certainly want to see how this problem can be eased. And if money is an issue, right now, we subvent the day centres for providing the rehabilitation, but we do not subvent for transport claims, so that is one idea that I’m very sympathetic with.

“We may decided to (give) some financial help and then we leave it to the industry to sort itself out, because there could be taxis, who are able to go back and forth. Or, we can give the money to the day rehab centres and let them distribute to the patients,” Mr Khaw said.

And to help patients manage costs better, Mr Khaw raised the possibility of extending the insurance coverage- MediShield to those with congenital diseases or mental illness.

He said: “I think at some stage, we have to review the whole MediShield, so at the next round of review, I would really like to include congenital illnesses in it… we certainly want to include mental illness as well.

“Obviously this will have an impact on premiums, so we shall cost it and see (if the plans are) viable.

“Over the next five years, I also will like to spend some time looking at some patients with uncommon conditions”.

These patients, Mr Khaw added, may not be large in number and may include those suffering from conditions that are congenital in nature.

“But their (healthcare) costs may be very high, so I wanted to actually have a closer study on the treatment for these groups of patients,” he said.

When asked if the MediShield should be extended to those above 85 years old, Mr Khaw said there is no urgent need to do so as numbers are small.

He said those who require help can already depend on Medifund. But the idea may be viable if there is a need to do so in the future.

Mr Khaw said the overall goal is for healthcare to become more home and patient centric to meet the needs of an ageing population better.

He said the direction is to upgrade the level of care outside the hospitals.

This could be within the homes, nursing homes or community hospitals.

He added that such care is traditionally left to the volunteer welfare organisations and he said they are doing a good job.

But there is still scope for the Health Ministry to offer professional knowledge and expertise, Mr Khaw said.

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