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Many welcome ideas to make healthcare more affordable for elderly

Many have welcomed the ideas to make healthcare more affordable for the elderly, as recommended by the PAP Seniors Group, but some also flagged concerns about the impact of the proposals.

SINGAPORE: Many have welcomed the ideas to make healthcare more affordable for the elderly, as recommended by the PAP Seniors Group on Thursday.

But some also flagged concerns about the impact of the proposals.

The PAP Seniors Group made several recommendations.

Among them, a tiered Medisave withdrawal scheme where older Singaporeans can withdraw more for outpatient needs, and increasing subsidies for homecare costs.

Mdm Chan Chee Meng, 80, said: "Hopefully they will help the elderly because some are really in need of assistance. Not everyone has children to help."

Mr Anthony Woo, 72, said: "The total package is of course a prudent direction to be heading for, but at the end of the day, it's still the same pool of money. It's the individual's income.

"Unless the government finds a way to plough some top-up, which is outside of the individual's earnings, then I will say it's complete."

Mr William Siow, 62, said: "The suggestions are good for the elderly but there's also a need to prevent the children seeking financial aid on behalf of their folks from abusing it."

For some, the suggestion to increase subsidies for homecare costs will ease Singapore's hospital bed crunch.

Abhijit Ghosh, leader of healthcare & pharmaceutical at PwC Singapore, said: “This will go a long way to solve the problem of the bed crunch issue because for the elderly generation, they would like to get the subsidy for their check-ups and try to get the hospital treatments.

“But if they can go more for the homecare treatment, where their near and dear ones are available, and the government's systems are geared up to support that, that would be fantastic.”

Another suggestion is getting the government to pay the bulk of MediShield Life premiums for seniors.

Dr Lam Pin Min, chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health, said: "With MediShield Life, the coverage for the different medical conditions will be enhanced. So I'd expect the MediShield Life premiums to be increased as well, and I'm sure this is the main concern of many Singaporeans.

“And I hope that with the review, we can seriously look into subsidising the MediShield Life premiums, especially for the older age group - the pioneer generation."

But concerns remain.

Mr Ghosh said: "The tiered withdrawal will enable the elderly generation to withdraw more but someone needs to cough it up, someone needs to put it (money) in. And I have reasons to believe we need to look at expanding our demographic profile and bring in more younger population to share the risks. So the issue of risk pooling will become a big issue."

Experts said tackling the ballooning healthcare costs for the elderly in Singapore will remain an uphill task for the government. This is especially so, with Singapore's rapidly ageing population and declining birth rate.

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