New MediShield Life for universal coverage

rs-singapuraA hospital in SingaporeSINGAPORE - The government will improve healthcare financing to give all Singaporeans more peace of mind.

Medical insurance scheme MediShield will be revamped to become MediShield Life -- to offer universal coverage and better protection for large hospitalisation bills.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his National Day Rally Speech on Sunday, also introduced a new Pioneer Generation Package to make sure that Singapore's pioneer generation does not need to worry about healthcare costs in their old age.

Falling seriously ill and being saddled with large hospital bills are major worries for many Singaporeans, especially those who are not insured under MediShield. Those aged above 90 are also not covered by MediShield.

To allay these concerns and give better protection against large bills, MediShield will be revamped to become MediShield Life.

Prime Minister Lee said: "The MediShield Life will not stop at 90. So don't worry, it will cover old people. Secondly, MediShield Life will be universal. It will cover everybody, every Singaporean -- old ones , young ones, those newly born.

"Even those who are now outside the MediShield network, we will bring them back in. You may be elderly, you may have dropped out, you may have pre-existing illnesses, we will bring you back in -- it may cost you a bit more but it can be done. There will be no more opting out for MediShield."

This means patients can expect to pay less cash out-of-pocket. But with better benefits and coverage, the premiums for MediShield Life will be higher too. The government will, however, subsidise MediShield Life premiums for those who cannot afford them.

As MediShield Life is a major change, the Health Ministry will conduct a public consultation exercise to seek views before deciding on the details of the scheme.

Another group that needs special care is from the pioneer generation, who are now mostly retired and are in their late sixties, or older.

They will get help to pay for their MediShield Life premiums, under a new Pioneer Generation Package.

Mr Lee said: "We are going to spend more on healthcare, year by year. The goverment subsidies are going up and will go up some more. But some part of it has to be paid by ourselves and each of us must save enough to pay for our share.

"Therefore, I think you can guess what my next line will be -- Medisave rates have to go up. It has to be. We will increase these contribution rates over time, as and when our economic conditions permit.

"How? How much? We will have to discuss carefully, but the direction is quite clear. We need to save more and that will stand us in good stead because one day we will all grow old, if we are lucky."

Besides enhancing the current healthcare framework, Mr Lee said that the best way to keep healthcare costs down is to stay healthy. This is especially so for the elderly, for whom exercise is not just about keeping fit but also to make friends.

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