SINGAPORE: The new CareShield Life scheme will be a significant improvement over the existing ElderShield policy, because it offers lifetime payouts to policyholders, suffering from disabilities, said ElderShield Review Committee Chairman, Chaly Mah on Monday (May 28).
The committee proposed to enhance the severe disability insurance scheme, which will be renamed CareShield Life and implemented it in 2020, after the Government accepted the committee's recommendations.
Speaking on 938NOW's Talkback programme, Mr Mah said CareShield Life will offer higher cash payouts of at least S$600 per month for the rest of an individual's life after a successful claim is made, as compared to just six years under ElderShield.
“But based on the statistics we’re seeing, in the future, as many three in 10 of those who suffer disabilities may live longer than 10 years,” he said. “So, if you think about it, if you are disabled and you live for a long time, a lifetime payout is indeed a very significant assurance."
CareShield Life will be compulsory and, unlike ElderShield, individuals will not be able to opt out. Mr Mah said it is designed to offer basic, universal protection for all Singaporeans, and those who wish to supplement it with further private insurance plans are encouraged to do so.
The first cohort of Singaporeans to be automatically covered by CareShield Life — including those with pre-existing disabilities — are those aged 30 to 40 in 2020.
But Mr Mah said the scheme is also open to older Singaporeans born before 1980.
CareShield Life does not automatically include older individuals because some of them have opted out of ElderShield, and it would be unfair to force them back in, he said. Moreover, people who join the scheme later in life will have to pay higher premiums.
“But, having said that, with the CareShield Life scheme being much more enhanced, we're encouraging everyone to come back on to the scheme,” said Mr Mah.
“We're also recommending to the government to help provide some support for this group of people who at some point in time would like to opt back in.”
HIGHER PREMIUMS FOR WOMEN
Different groups of Singaporeans will be charged different CareShield Life premiums. This is especially the case for women, who will pay higher premiums.
ElderShield Review Committee member, Fang Eu-Lin, explained on 938NOW that this is because women tend to live longer, and have a higher chance of requiring long-term care for disabilities. “We debated very much on this topic. In fact, many men in the committee also raised it as a concern,” she said.
“So, we did our research, and found that it’s a mixed bag in other countries. Some have the same premiums for males and females, and some have higher premiums for females. But what is the most important, is to have a fair and inclusive outcome, and females who are not able to afford their premiums will get government support,” said Ms Fang.
The committee also addressed concerns about difficult claims processes.
“We’re recommending that, for example, people who are suffering from stroke and are clearly disabled, let’s not make it so difficult for them. Don't make them go through annual re-assessment, because they are already permanently disabled,” Mr Mah said.
While everyone will have to go through an assessment, he said this should happen only once.
“We’re also recommending to increase the pool of assessors. Right now, the pool is limited to doctors. We’re recommending that we include nurses and occupational therapists as qualified assessors so that the claims process can be much easier.”
The committee has also recommended a “one-stop shop”, an agency that is able to keep track of claimants. This way, once the individual’s record is with the agency, the information can be shared across all hospitals, and this should make the claims process easier as well, said Mr Mah.
Acknowledging that there are a lot of details in CareShield Life for people to absorb, Ms Fang said one challenge over the next few months would be for greater outreach efforts.
“Given that the starting age for CareShield Life is 30, we really want to engage younger Singaporeans, through platforms such as the National Youth Council, the People’s Association, and even workplaces that have many young people,” she said.
“If you look at the overall scheme, it is an improved scheme, compared to ElderShield, in terms of the amount of premium you pay, versus what you’ll get in terms of payouts. So, it’s really about understanding the details."