SINGAPORE: The government is reinforcing its social safety net, especially for older Singaporeans.
Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam on Monday unveiled measures to ensure healthcare remains affordable for this group.
Presenting Singapore’s Budget 2013 in Parliament, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said the country’s healthcare financing has to evolve as society gets older and with growing demand for quality care.
A key principle, even as healthcare expenditure goes up, is that Singaporeans’ out—of—pocket share of medical costs should fall, with the government taking on a larger share of costs, said Mr Tharman.
He added the needs of the middle—income group should also be met.
The measures include a S$1 billion top—up to the Medifund, an endowment fund to help needy Singaporeans, including the middle—income group, pay for their medical bills.
There will also be a S$250 million top—up to ElderCare Fund to strengthen support for patients in nursing homes and other long—term care services.
The current Senior’s Mobility Fund will be expanded into a Senior’s Mobility and Enabling Fund, which will cover a much wider range of assistive devices like hearing aids, shower chairs and motorised wheelchairs. Its fund will be boosted from the current S$10 million to S$50 million.
The very poor and those who are permanently unable to work — that is, those on Public Assistance Scheme — will also get more payouts.
For example, a couple will now receive an additional S$90, making up S$790 in cash assistance a month.
There are about 3,000 Singaporeans on Public Assistance.
About 10,000 government pensioners will also get more money.
Their allowances will be raised by $20 to $280 a month and their monthly pension ceiling raised to $1,210.
Social services will be brought closer to the home for better delivery.
For example, 20 social services offices will be set up in HDB towns over the next few years.
A dedicated agency will also be set up to strengthen the focus on persons with disabilities.
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