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MediShield Life Review Committee to announce indicative premium increases

The MediShield Life Review Committee will announce indicative premium increases for a few groups next week.

SINGAPORE: The MediShield Life Review Committee will announce indicative premium increases for a few groups next week.

The new universal healthcare insurance scheme will cover all Singaporeans for life, and include those with pre-existing illnesses.

After six months of consultations with more than 1,000 Singaporeans through 36 focus group discussions, the committee has reached the final stage of its review.

The committee was appointed last year by the Health Ministry to study the design of MediShield Life.

Through focus group discussions, it has consulted widely with members of the public and key stakeholders, including voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs), unions and healthcare professionals.

The 11-member committee met for hours of "rigorous discussions" before agreeing on the premium levels of MediShield Life.

To make the judgement call, they took into account the national medical savings scheme Medisave.

Bobby Chin, chairman of the MediShield Life Review Committee, said: "We look at the average Medisave inflow. Then we look at on average, what is the bill size? Assuming we get into that situation, are you able to afford to pay for your deductibles, pay for your hospital bills from your Medisave?

“That to me is very important, because having the ability to pay for your Medisave account means you can afford it without having to incur more out-of-pocket expenses.

“We also did a sanity check to look at what is the premium level for certain age groups versus the average income, disposable income for instance, of that average age group."

No numbers were floated during discussions with the public, but Mr Chin said the general consensus was that Singaporeans wanted to use their Medisave to pay for their
MediShield Life premiums without having to make a cash top-up.

While he felt the majority of Singaporeans will be happy with the committee's recommendations, he noted that not everyone will be satisfied.

"We had to manage requests -- sometimes a little bit of aggressive demands from Singaporeans. Like universal coverage, for instance. There was a segment of people who said, why should we be paying for people who were not covered before?

“Singaporeans who have pre-existing conditions coming into the pool -- maybe the government should pay for all. Why should we be paying for the increase in premiums?"

When debating MediShield Life enhancements, Mr Chin said trade-offs had to be made so that the more critical benefits were decided upon first.

The committee also took into account how much younger working adults have to pay for premiums and whether to have healthy living incentives such as a no-claim bonus.

Following the committee's proposals on June 5, a final report will be submitted to the Health Minister which will include all the recommendations the committee has had over the past few months.

Once the report is accepted by the government, a parliamentary debate can be expected before the implementation of MediShield Life in 2015.

MediShield is a basic insurance scheme designed to protect Singaporeans from large hospital bills, and currently, pre-existing conditions are excluded.

But once MediShield Life kicks in, all conditions will be included.

Today, MediShield coverage stops at age 90. With MediShield Life, Singaporeans will be covered for life.

So what kind of benefits can Singaporeans expect with MediShield Life?

Its review committee has already recommended the removal of the current S$300,000 lifetime limit.

It also suggested increasing claimable limits and halving patients' co-payments -- all of which the Health Ministry is agreeable to.

Better coverage through higher MediShield payouts means Singaporeans can expect to pay less for larger bills.

But premiums will also need to increase.

The government says it intends to bear most of the initial cost of universal coverage, and introduce permanent subsidies for lower to middle income groups.

Additional financial help, such as through Medifund, will be given to the very needy who cannot pay premiums even after subsidies and Medisave top-ups.

The pioneer generation will get extra help with their MediShield Life premiums. 

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