MOH: Will Give More Help for MediShield. Through Medisave, Medifund, Communication, What Else?

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong was reported in The Straits Times as saying:

The Government could have done better in explaining how the GST Voucher scheme worked.

From next year, maximum payout (for MediShield) will be raised, along with premiums and deductibles. This has raised concerns among poorer Singaporeans, but Mr Gan urged them to stay on MediShield, so that they would be covered for large medical bills.

To ease the higher costs, the Government would give Medisave top-ups, while those who still have problems can tap the Medifund to pay for the deductibles.

In a report, ‘Take the guesswork out of investing’, in The Sunday Times yesterday, it was reported that the Monstary Authority of Singapore (MAS) had recently conducted a “mystery shopping exercise” on how financial advisors fared when guiding us through investing in products. The exercise found that:

The customer’s best interest may not be paramount with all advisors.

The findings are as below:

50% were not asked about their financial risk tolerance or financial objectives

40% were not asked for their investment experience

52% discussed fees and charges

30% of the products recommended were not suitable

Less than 50% provided warnings, exclusions and caveats, as well as a product’s free-look period

According to the report in The Straits Times, Mr Gan was said to have “urged citizens to stay on the national health insurance scheme” – MediShield.

I had written an article a few days ago about how the additional MediShield premium will result in lower claims per dollar premium paid.

Since MediShield is the national health insurance scheme, perhaps the government would need to take a leave out of its own book and look at the findings from MAS:

  1. When the premium and claims was increased, were Singaporeans consulted on before the changes were made?
  2. Did the government explain in detail how the additional premium and claims will differ from the original MediShield?
  3. Mr Gan had advised “citizens to stay on the national health insurance scheme”. But why? 
  4. Did the government explain to us how our premium is being invested and it is returned, and how much the government would profit from MediShield, if any? 

Separately, why was the issue of GST vouchers also included in the same report? Was it aimed at confusing readers and take them away from the issue at hand – the additional premium for MediShield?

The report had scattered the discussion on GST vouchers in between the discussion on MediShield. 

These are two separate issues. 

But the discussion interspersed and interjected without a coherent thought structure – this coming from the national newspaper.

Mr Gan had rightfully pointed out that the government needs to “learn from our experience, and to improve on our communciation channels.” He added that, “The authorities will keep looking at how it can improve communication with residents, so that there’s better understanding on what the Government is doing to help them, and so that they will also be able to assess government assistance more effectively.”

I applaud Mr Gan for his proactiveness into improving the communication process. The Health Ministry, in my opinion, has tended to be one of the more responsive and responsible ministries.

However, there are some structural issues that the Health Ministry should also look into to facilitate the provision of government assistance to Singaporeans, and not only look into improving the communication process.

  1. The very reason why the issue of communication came about is because there are many complex systems and processes that Singaporeans have to manoeuvre. For example, for medical claims, an individual has to pay for his medical fees through MediShield, Medisave and Medifund. In addition, there are other health insurance policies which private insurance companies provide as add-ons. This not only further complicates the health claims, but on top of feeling unwell – the very reason for seeking medical attention – and for those who require the use of Medifund, there are already other pressing life issues to attend to, why must they be expected to have to undergo an unnecessarily cumbersome process which prevents them from accessing adequate healthcare?
  2. Mr Gan had rightfully noted that “poorer families” will have difficulties handling the increased premiums for MediShield. He suggested that “poorer families will get help to cope with the latest MediShield changes” and that “the Government will give Medisave top-ups, while those who still have problems (the poorest households) can tap the Medifund for deductibles. ” In effect, the Health Ministry is trying to resolve an issue that is made cumbersome by the existing structures, thus creating an unnecessary need for patients to have to refer to each of the different existing policies to foot one bill – one single bill. 

One does wonder if the different policies were created for diversion, or if they actually do serve a genuine purpose? 

The government needs to not only look into improving the communication of its existing and new policies, and on any amendments, but to also look into streamlining the structures and systems, for easier access and qualification by its citizens. 

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