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New medical subsidies will not cover private treatment: Dr Khor

Under the additional Specialist Outpatient Clinic (SOC) and Pioneer Subsidies, patients must see a primary care doctor first, Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Dr Amy Khor said on Aug 29. 

SINGAPORE: There are currently 850,000 people on the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), of which 150,000 are Pioneer Generation members. By next week, 300,000 more pioneers will come on board the scheme. Their Pioneer Generation cards will enable them to enjoy special CHAS subsidies from next month.

This update was given by Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower, Dr Amy Khor, on Friday morning (Aug 29). All the subsidy changes, except for drugs, will take effect from Sep 1. The higher subsidies for drugs take effect from Jan 1 next year.

ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FOR SUBSIDIES

Dr Khor said she has been receiving feedback from Singaporeans on their eligibility criteria for the various subsidies. She pointed out that the additional Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOCs) and Pioneer Generation (PG) subsidies are not applicable to private services.

Speaking during her visit to CHAS General Practitioners (GPs) and dental clinics around Bedok South, Dr Khor explained: "If the patient is receiving private services at the SOC at public hospitals, they will not be able to get the additional SOC or pioneer subsidy because private services are not subsidised. 

"If the patient wants to get subsidised service at the SOCs in our public hospitals, then they first need to go and consult a primary care doctor at the polyclinic or a CHAS GP if they are a CHAS card holder or a Pioneer Generation card holder. If the doctor assesses that they need specialised care, they can then be referred to SOCs for subsidised care," added Dr Khor. 

Meanwhile, for pioneers who are currently already an SOC patient but receiving private services and who wish to receive subsidies, they can approach the SOC staff to apply to switch to the subsidised SOC. If successful, they will be cared for by a team of healthcare professionals and they will not be able to choose their doctor.

There are currently more than 1,000 CHAS-participating GP and dental clinics.

GPs EMPLOYING MORE STAFF

Some GPs have employed more staff to handle the additional administrative work ahead of next month, when the special CHAS subsidies kick in for Pioneer Generation members.

Dr Chye Chuan Hee, a dental surgeon at Victoria Dentalcare, said: "Our clinics have employed additional staff to specially handle all the administration work pertaining to CHAS and PG. This is to ensure the submissions and accounts are all accurate."

Dr Lim Yong Chin from Access Medical Bedok South - a CHAS GP - added: "Initially, the administrative matters were done purely by myself and the doctors involved. But subsequently as the admin load increased, we actually had to employ somebody to do this on a part-time basis, because the claims have to be made in a timely fashion but the admin work is actually quite high."

TWO NEW CHANGES TO THE SCHEME

Kicking in next Monday are two new changes to the scheme, when lower- to middle-income Singaporeans who are existing subsidised patients will now get 60- to 70-per cent subsidies when referred to SOCs in public hospitals from polyclinics or CHAS GPs.

The Pioneer Generation will also receive a special CHAS benefit - an additional 50 per cent - on top of these subsidies. All of this additional assistance only applies to subsidised bills.

Dr Khor also clarified that Pioneers Generation members will have to apply for the blue or orange CHAS card if they want to enjoy higher subsidies.

Dr Lim from Access Medical said he is not anticipating a huge crowd from September onwards as patients do not come to clinics to seek treatment because of subsidies on offer, but because they are really ill.

However, Ms Koh Siew Choo, a dental assistant from Advanced Dental Clinic, also a CHAS clinic, said the clinic anticipates more walk-ins on top of the existing 40 to 50 bookings for September, and that the clinic has been looking to hire two to three more staff to cope with the larger crowd.

From January next year, lower- and middle-income patients will also be given additional subsidies on subsidised drugs at SOCs and polyclinics.