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PAP Seniors Group urges more healthcare support for pioneer generation

The PAP Seniors Group has put forth six suggestions to the government to consider for the Pioneer Generation Package and the formulation of MediShield Life.

SINGAPORE: The PAP Seniors Group has put forth six suggestions to the government to consider for the Pioneer Generation Package and the formulation of MediShield Life.

One of the suggestions is a tiered Medisave withdrawal scheme, which allows older Singaporeans to withdraw more compared to younger Singaporeans, for outpatient needs.

Healthcare affordability was a big concern at the group’s inaugural dialogue session on January 28.

The dialogue session was attended by more than 100 participants, who were asked to share their hopes and expectations for the Pioneer Generation Package.

To help allay some of their concerns, the PAP Seniors Group released its first set of recommendations to the government on Thursday.

Speaker of Parliament and PAP Seniors Group chair Halimah Yacob said: "We need to give our seniors the assurance that healthcare costs will continue to be affordable -- where there are healthcare increases in costs, it will be manageable.

“I think that kind of assurance is very critical so that we remove the anxiety over healthcare bills as they grow older."

The group is calling for the government to pay a significant part of MediShield Life premiums for seniors and that it should not be a one-off measure.

It also said that the amount of subsidies should be reviewed as and when the MediShield Life premiums increase in the future, so that it would be kept affordable even in future years.

The group also urged the government to increase the benefit levels to cover more of the subsidised bills, especially the claims limit.

Currently, those claims limits are sufficient for the majority of the subsidised bills, but as medical costs have increased, more bills are exceeding the claim limits, leaving a larger proportion of the bill to be paid by the patients.

The PAP Seniors Group also called for more Medisave top-ups to help the elderly pay for deductibles.

Madam Halimah said that the group understands the government's rationale to get patients to pay the deductibles and co-payments when they are hospitalised to prevent over-consumption and ensure responsible use of medical services.

But seniors have expressed their concern over the deductibles in the smaller hospital bills, which are not covered by MediShield.

The group is also calling for more help for Specialist Outpatient Treatments and non-subsidised medicines.

Seniors are worried about the higher cost services such as specialist care or long-term care, which can be expensive for those suffering from chronic illnesses or who are disabled due to old age.

Madam Halimah said: "Although our recommendations are very specific, we do recognise that this (Pioneer Generation Package) cannot be taking care of the (whole) pioneer generation, (it) cannot be something that is only the responsibility of the government.

“It must be a whole of community, a whole of society’s responsibility, meaning that everyone takes ownership to make sure our pioneers really feel valued, respected and have a place in society.

"Everybody can do a part -- families, community-based organisations as well as private enterprises. Private companies can play their part in terms of providing services at subsidised rates for our seniors.

“When everyone plays their part, I think that's where we'll truly be able to provide an environment that's truly supportive of our pioneers who have contributed so much to our society."

The PAP Seniors Group has called on the government to cover more long-term care costs for the elderly, which include increasing the subsidies for home care costs so that families can look after their frail elderly at home, instead of sending them to a hospital or a nursing home.

The group has also suggested using Medisave to pay for those services, so that the out-of-pocket expenses for the elderly can be reduced. 

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