SINGAPORE: A new scheme – ElderFund - will be rolled out in 2020 to help severely disabled Singaporeans who need financial assistance.
Eligible Singapore citizens could receive up to S$250 in cash each month.
To qualify, they will need to be aged at least 30 when the scheme is launched. The fund, which will be administered by the Agency of Integrated Care (AIC), will not impose a cap on the payout duration, the Ministry of Health said on Monday (Jul 2).
More details on how to apply for this scheme will be made available close to 2020, MOH added.
It will benefit the severely disabled who are unable to join CareShield Life, a new national severe disability insurance scheme, or have low MediSave balances and inadequate personal savings to meet their long-term care needs, a spokesperson said.
The severely disabled are people who cannot independently perform at least three of six activities of daily living (ADL) - washing, dressing, feeding, using the toilet, moving around and the ability of transferring oneself from a bed to a chair.
“It’s a discretionary financial assistance scheme that is funded by the Government to target primarily the lower income Singaporeans with severe disabilities. Some of them have very different circumstances, some of them may have exceptional circumstances,” Health Minister Gan Kim Yong told reporters.
CASH WITHDRAWALS FROM MEDISAVE
Apart from the scheme, the Government will allow severely disabled Singapore residents aged 30 and above in 2020 to withdraw cash for the first time from their MediSave accounts.
They will be able to withdraw between S$50 and S$200 monthly, depending on their MediSave balance, and only if they have at least S$5,000 in their account. In order to withdraw the maximum, they would need to have at least S$20,000 in their MediSave account.
They can also tap on their spouse’s account if they do not have enough, but the monthly maximum will remain at S$200. Those who are overseas will also be eligible for such cash withdrawals.
According to MOH, Singaporeans residents aged 65 and above have a median MediSave balance of S$19,000, adding that close to half of them have S$20,000 or more in their MediSave.
“About 1 in 4 have S$5,000 or less in their MediSave, but we expect this to improve over time, as younger cohorts have higher wages and a longer runway to save, compared to older Singaporeans,” a spokesperson added.
“When Singaporeans are facing severe disabilities and financial difficulties, we can afford to be more flexible in the use of MediSave, including withdrawal in cash,” Mr Gan said.
When asked if the relaxed usage of MediSave will mean that Singaporeans will have to increase their contributions, Mr Gan said that the Government is confident that the “current contribution rate will be adequate”.
“Allowing Singaporeans to make cash withdrawals from MediSave and the setting up of ElderFund to support severely disable lower-income Singaporeans are both significant enhancements to Singapore’s long-term care financing framework, said chairman of the ElderShield Review Committee Chaly Mah.
ElderFund and MediSave cash withdrawals are part of the Government’s efforts to boost long-term care financing in Singapore.
Mr Navin Nair, 31, who has cerebral palsy and cannot independently perform at least three ADLs, said that while he is happy there are more avenues for help, the cash MediSave withdrawals will not go a long way towards helping him and others in his situation as employment is a problem.
“How can persons with disabilities build up these reserves? Majority of the severely disabled have problems with employment,” he said. Mr Nair, who requires about S$1,000 monthly for his medical, transport and insurance expenses even without taking taxis or private vehicles, added that the quantum of money through ElderFund may not be enough, especially in years to come.
Healthcare analyst Jeremy Lim said that the amount to be given through ElderFund is small. However, he said: “This is a new scheme and I’m sure the criteria, amounts disbursed, will be reviewed with actual real world experience.”
He added that the scheme provides a safety net for those who despite the other schemes are still in need.