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MediShield Life review panel to set up sub-committees to focus on 3 key areas

The MediShield Life Review Committee will set up sub-committees to focus on three key areas in its second phase of consultation exercise.

SINGAPORE: The MediShield Life Review Committee will focus on three key areas in its second phase of consultation exercise.

This was announced at a preliminary update held at the Arts House on Tuesday.

The committee has also called on the government to provide more support to help the elderly and low-income group come on board the new scheme.

Some 14 focus group discussions have been held with more than 500 people.

One thing was clear -- the call for support for the elderly and low-income group.

Bobby Chin, head of the MediShield Life Review Committee, said: "We are aware that Singaporeans need insurance coverage but inevitably better coverage means higher premiums.

"And given that insurance coverage is critical and affordability is a concern for these two groups of people, the committee has listened very intently, and we recognise there must be adequate support to get all of them on board MediShield."

Moving forward, three sub-committees will be formed to address specific concerns.

The first one will study the benefits of MediShield Life -- by looking at how the scheme could provide better protection with a given premium increase.

This will include the kind of benefits they would like to see in terms of deductibles, limits and co-insurance.

The next sub-committee will focus on universal coverage and how to bring the uninsured into this scheme.

It will study whether this group should pay higher premiums, receive subsidies from the government or if the premiums should be shared by everyone else.

Finally, another sub-committee will focus on integrated shield plans -- like whether there should be greater regulation of premium setting, or standardisation of various products.

The committee said the majority of participants support universal coverage but the issue of cost remains.

Mr Chin said: "When we talk about affordability, I would say generally yes, the feeling that we've got is that, 'well as long as my Medisave is enough to pay for my premiums, I'm happy.

"But once it gets into a situation where I have to pay out of my pocket, that raises a bit of concern because the cash outlay means less money for other things."

Mr Chin added: "I think it helps Singaporeans, if you can afford to pay from your Medisave. Obviously if you can't even afford to pay from your Medisave, that's where it raises a concern then -- how do you pay for your premiums?

"So that's where, if you are from the lower income group, we hope that the government will come to provide additional support."

From the consultation sessions, the committee noted that there was a general lack of understanding of Singapore's healthcare financing. So it is calling on the government to engage in more public education to build a level of awareness of Singapore's healthcare financing framework.

While there was a general acceptance of the pre-funding model which involves paying more during the working ages, there was a diversity of views on how this could be done.

Mr Chin said: "Pre-funding has been an area which has been announced by various people. From the feedback that we obtained, there seems to be a lack of understanding about what pre funding is about.

"But there's general acceptance that pre-funding is a good initiative to help manage the allocation of premiums throughout one's lifetime.

"And therefore when you are young and able to afford, and still working, you should contribute more to help manage the premiums in the future when you get old.

"So the committee will study the merits and drawbacks of the pre-funding approach to offset old age premiums." 

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