Updated: 03/13/2013 01:37

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announces a fundamental shift in the healthcare financing system.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announces a fundamental shift in the healthcare financing system.

Singapore Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has said that the country's review of its healthcare financing system will be extensive and "involve fundamental shifts". 

Speaking in Parliament during his ministry's Committee of Supply debate, Mr Gan said the review will likely take more than a year. 

He also announced plans to look at building more hospitals and polyclinics in anticipation of the country's ageing and growing population.

It will be a comprehensive review to address the concerns many Singaporeans have expressed about rising healthcare costs. 

This includes - just how much out-of-pocket cash you would have to pay when you visit a doctor.

So the first major shift - the government will increase its share of national spending on healthcare from the current one-third to about 40 per cent and possibly even more. 

The aim is to reduce the impact of rising healthcare costs especially for the lower and middle-income groups. 

Two - further expanding coverage for Medisave - the national medical saving scheme. 

Three - stretching the dollar and enhancing the role of national medical insurance schemes. 

For example, looking at whether the cap for MediShield, designed to cover catastrophic illnesses, should be raised to offset a higher proportion of large hospital bills. 

While the review is underway, the minister announced a slew of measures to help needy Singaporeans. 

This includes expanding the list of subsidised drugs and waiving the 3 dollar transaction fee for patients who make Medisave claims. 

And even as the government looks at ways to make healthcare more affordable, Mr Gan stressed that the principle of co-payment will remain because the starting point is for every Singaporean to take care of their own health. 

Separately, the government will ramp up infrastructure on healthcare in anticipation of an ageing and growing population. 

Mr Gan said there may be a need to build four more new acute hospitals in the next decade. 

There are currently 7 public acute hospitals in Singapore. 

In regions where there are gaps in coverage, Mr Gan announced plans for new polyclinics. 

First up - in two new towns - Jurong West, near Pioneer and Punggol. 

These will be ready by 2017. 

By end 2020, Mr Gan said there may be four more polyclinics needed. 

And another 6 or 8 more, by 2030.

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