SINGAPORE: Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said his ministry is "seriously considering" the idea of expanding the coverage of the MediShield — a national health insurance scheme — to go beyond just hospitalisation treatments.
Speaking at a post—budget dialogue session on Sunday, he said the ministry may also free up the use of Medisave — a national medical savings scheme — to include home—based hospice care.
Over 100 participants engaged the Health Minister in the two—hour wide—ranging dialogue.
Some wanted to know what more is being done to ramp up capacity in the healthcare sector.
But affordability was a key concern, with calls to expand the coverage of current financing schemes such as Medisave and MediShield.
Mr Gan said his ministry is aware that there are some outpatient treatments which can be costly and where insurance coverage under the MediShield may be useful.
So he’s studying how the scheme can be expanded further.
The key is in striking a balance, so that premiums remain affordable.
Mr Gan said: "One area is say for example — chronic diseases. So whether we want to cover that, is something that we need to discuss, we need to explore and we need to also think through very carefully, because if we include too many items, the premiums will also go up for insurance. So we need to strike a balance between providing coverage as well as the cost of insurance."
The ministry will also study ways to help Singaporeans pay for the insurance premiums.
As for the use of Medisave, Mr Gan said extending it to cover home—based hospice care is one possibility.
But he said authorities need to be mindful about the many competing demands.
"There was request for extension to screenings, extension to hospice care and so on. These are all reasonable desires but at the end we still need to prioritise them, because after all Medisave balances are still limited, there’s a finite pool and we want to make best use of the finite pool of savings that Singaporeans have," Mr Gan said.
The need to attract more locals into the healthcare sector was another concern and there were suggestions for salaries to be raised. Mr Gan assured that salaries will be kept competitive and that another round of review is likely to take place this year or next year.
As for capacity, Mr Gan said the ministry is also working with private hospitals to tap on their capacity to cater to subsidised patients.
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