SINGAPORE: Patients with new Integrated Shield Plan riders will have to bear some of their healthcare costs, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced on Wednesday (Mar 7).
Private insurers offer some policies with zero co-payment coverage. These policies, which are known as full riders, “encourage a buffet syndrome” as patients do not need to pay anything for their treatments, said Mr Gan during his ministry’s Committee of Supply debate.
Such riders undermine the co-payment principle and dilute the personal responsibility to choose appropriate and necessary care, he added.
“This will encourage unnecessary treatment, leading to rising healthcare costs not only for those with such riders, but for all of us,” he said.
Co-payment, which has been an “integral feature” in healthcare schemes, including MediShield Life, will encourage responsible behaviour by patients and healthcare providers, he said.
Such co-payment plays an important role in ensuring Singapore’s healthcare system is sustainable by emphasising personal responsibility in healthcare, encouraging service providers to focus on appropriate interventions, and nudging patients to make prudent decisions in healthcare services, Mr Gan said.
This is important as it ensures that all stakeholders, including patients, have a stake in the decision, he added.
MOH will continue to review Singapore’s healthcare financing policies to ensure that co-payment remains affordable, through more targeted subsidies, he added.
“No one will be denied appropriate healthcare because they cannot afford to pay,” he said.
SIX TO EIGHT NEW POLYCLINICS BY 2030
MOH will add another six to eight new polyclinics by 2030, on top of the six that were announced in 2012, which will be built by 2020, Mr Gan said.
“This is part of our commitment to ensure Singaporeans can access primary care closer to their homes,” Mr Gan said, adding that MOH is partnering GPs through Primary Care Networks to offer subsidised team-based care in the community through Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).
He added that the Government needs to innovate and find new ways to deliver quality care to patients in a more effective and efficient way and for better outcomes.
He gave the example of Pioneer polyclinic, where patients are cared for by a team comprising doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.
“Having a regular primary care team will ensure better continuity of care for patients. This is one of many initiatives that has improved the quality of care,” he said.
BEYOND HEALTHCARE 2020
Mr Gan stressed the need to keep the healthcare system sustainable in the long term and future-ready.
He said the Fee Benchmarks Committee was set up this year to provide a reference to guide doctors in setting reasonable fees, and to help patients make informed choices on their care options.
MOH also established the Agency for Care Effectiveness (ACE) to provide guidance on cost-effective drugs and treatment, and the Healthcare Productivity Fund, to spur productivity improvement efforts in our healthcare institutions, he added.
Another broad shift that will take Singapore’s healthcare system forward is going beyond the hospital to the community, he said.
He pointed to figures that show that over the last decade, the Government had increased total spending in primary care and intermediate and long-term care sectors by close to four times, from S$1.3 billion between FY2007 and FY2011, to S$5.1 billion between FY2012 and FY2016.
“These investments reflect our priority to anchor care firmly in the community,” he said adding that formation of the Silver Generation Office as well as expansion of Community Networks for Seniors will bring social and healthcare services closer to better serve people.