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    Mar 13, 2014

    Treatments to go easier on the pocket

    POOR health won't necessarily mean a lighter wallet.

    Singaporeans can expect to shell out less cash as Medisave is extended to cover more types of outpatient treatments.

    The changes will come into effect progressively from July, starting with the removal of the $30 deductible for chronic disease treatment. With this in place, patients will no longer need to pay the first $30 in cash for each bill.

    Patients will also be able to use Medisave for non-cancer-related scans needed for diagnosis and treatment of up to $300 a year, from the first quarter of next year. This is on top of scans needed for cancer treatment that are claimable.

    Health Minister Gan Kim Yong yesterday noted that many elderly Singaporeans were worried about depleting their cash savings and had asked to tap on their Medisave more easily.

    "We hear you. While we remain concerned about depletion of Medisave balance, we can consider more flexibility, especially for older Singaporeans," he said.

    So, those aged 65 and above will soon be able to use their Medisave for outpatient medical treatment, of up to $200 a year, at specialist outpatient clinics, polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme clinics. This would be part of the Flexi-Medisave scheme that will kick in by the first half of next year.

    The scheme will also supplement the current $400 annual limit for chronic disease treatment.

    Mr Gan said the extra $200 is a start, and his ministry will work out the details of the scheme over the next few months.

    All lower- to middle-income patients can also look forward to cheaper medication, with higher subsidies for standard drugs.

    Standard drugs are now mostly capped at $1.40 per week or subsidised at 50 per cent of the retail price. But from January next year, these patients will enjoy a 75 per cent subsidy for all standard drugs, reducing up to half of their medical costs.

    Subsidies will eventually be extended to more drugs, with the addition of 13 drugs to the medication assistance fund and standard drug list next month.

    Mr Gan assured MPs that MediShield Life will be kept affordable even as premiums increase due to better coverage and benefits.

    For a household comprising a working-age couple with two school-going children, which receives top-ups and Workfare, their MediShield Life premiums will not take up more than half of what they put into their Medisave accounts annually.

    Lower- to middle-income groups could pay the same amount in premiums as they do now, or even pay less, after taking into account impending permanent subsidies, additional Medisave contributions, and top-ups.

    Hougang MP Png Eng Huat asked for cancer survivors to not be left out of MediShield Life. "It is ironic that cancer is not a death sentence, but cancer survivors have to serve out a life sentence of being uninsurable any more," he said.

    Mr Gan said MediShield Life will cover those with cancer as well as those who have recovered, and added that insurers offering integrated shield plans will be required to guarantee renewals, so that policyholders cannot be dropped from coverage even if they subsequently develop illnesses.