Monday, July 16, 2007

Will We Get Bankrupt with Mean Testing On Healthcare?

I raised my concern on the Mean Testing on Healthcare, at the Dialogue Session with Minister, Prime Minister Office, Mr Lim Swee Say, during his MCV to Mountbatten on 24th June 2007.

The people on the ground, were very concerned, when Minster of Health, Mr Khaw Boon Wan mooted the idea of Mean Testing for Healthcare, especially for the highly-subsidised 'C' Class wards. He also suggested implementing it within a year.

Whether the Mean Testing will be classified by our asset or by income, we found it to be non-justifiable or questionable. The worries lie with the defination of 'affordability'. To us it depends on our savings and the balance of our income after deducting our monthly expenditure.

Those badly affected are the 'sandwich' class, between the rich and poor, or between the aged parents and the dependant children. The rich can easily afford, and they will not go for C Class wards in public hospital, the poor would be taken care of by the government or welfare organisation.

We have to take care of our aged parents, who are no longer covered by any insurance scheme, and as they age, medical expenses will be higher or may become non-affordable.

Futhermore, quite a number of elderly are not used to the aircon in the better ward and some would like companionship in an open ward.

We cannot deplete our saving too, we also have to save for our children's future. They may not be able to continue their tertiary education in Singapore, due to the limited universities places available here. We have to save money, in order to send them abroad for further studies.

These middle income group already are the victim of mean testing as in housing, that is if their combined household income is above $8,000, they are not entitled to buy any public housing. If they want to own an asset, they have to get private housing. They have to pay higher housing loans and pay higher initial payment and thus deplete their saving. At the same time, they also contribute to income taxes, which are used for the subsidies.

Mean Testing for hospitalisation at public hospital, was mooted by a popular Minister who had done alot and still working on improvements to the healthcare system and lowering the cost. At the same time, he is faced with rising health costs, an ageing population and abuses, especially some families 'dumping' their parents to the care of the public hospitals.

I propose that Class C wards may still be accorded to patients of any income group, with reducing subsidies after a period of stay, for example 70% for first 7 days, 50% for the next 7 days and 30 % after 14 days stay etc.

The needy can apply for the normal subsidies. The medical doctor may certify that a patient require a longer stay, and providing the regular subsidies. Those not qualified under 'needy' may seek the Member of Parliament for recommendation of financial aids, if needed. Those who abuses the healthcare system gets the least or no subsidies.

Thursday, July 5, 2007


Minister Lim Swee Say, MPs for Marine Parade GRC Mr Lim Biow Chuan and Dr Fatimah Lateef were welcomed by the girl pipers and Mountbatten Constituency Grassroots Leaders (GRLs) upon their arrival at the Katong Community Centre at Kampong Arang.

They were then led to the Events Hall, where about 300 residents and GRLs were ready for the dialogue session to comment. MP Mr Lim Biow Chuan the host MP introduced Minister Lim, the other panelist, Dr Fatimah, Mountbatten CCC Chairman Mr Lim Nghee Huat and MCV (Mountbatten) Organising Chairman Mr Chew Siong Hee.

When MP Mr Lim Biow Chuan, invited questions and feedbacks from the floor, I immediately raised my hand, and caught Mr Lim's eyes, I was invited and had the privilege to ask the first question of the dialogue session.

I am very concerned with the issue of Mean Testing, when Minister of Health Mr Khaw Boon Wan mooted the idea a few months back and suggested implementing within a year. In fact, I intended to discuss the issue with Minister Khaw, when he invited seven of us, for lunch on the 25th May 2007, but we were too preoccupied with the discussion on the Opticianary & Optometrist Bill.

I will dedicate my next post on my concern on Mean Testing, and sum up the various feedback I received from friends, associates and peoples that I had met.

Minister Lim's answer was very sincere, concise and well phrased, asking us not to speculate the worst scenerio, as Ministry of Health is still working on the details, nothing specified yet. Minister Lim continued to say that Singaporeans need to accept that the needy require more subsidies.

He said public healthcare costs are going up but government revenue may not increase at the same pace, hence there is a need for means testing to allocate limited resources more suitably. Especially when health cost is increasing with an aging population.

He added that, Singaporeans should be familiar with this concept as only families, whose household income is less than S$8,000 a month qualify for public housing subsidy. That is a form of means testing that is not disputed as much as healthcare.

The next question was raised by a female resident. She raised the issue that SME and micro-businesses had problems with government policy on tightening labour market. Due to the strict laws on employing foreign workers and granting them work permits, they have to hire illegal workers.

Minister Lim replied that more foreign workers will be allowed in, but raising the employment of older workers, low-income workers and getting housewives to return to the workplace are top priorities. An overly liberal approach to work permits may impede efforts in these areas.

The 3rd question was raised by another GRL, Mr Michael Chwee. He was referring, his concern on proposal on CPF withdrawal, when extending the retirement age from 62 to 65 by Minister Lim Boon Heng, who is tasked to look into the problem of the aged. The withdrawal of CPF's minimum sum (of up to $100,000) which is set aside, only allowed to withdraw at present age of 62 be extended to tie with the new proposed retirement age of 65.

Minister Lim, who is also the Secretary-General of NTUC, said: "Don't speculate and assume the worse – that the government is going to keep the CPF money for many years to come. That is not the scenario the government is working towards." The scenario that the government is working towards is an economy where older workers can be re-employed in the same job, part-time or with a slightly different job scope. But Singapore has a long way to go as the employment rate of those aged 60 to 64 is currently at 42 percent.

Minister Lim said: "25 years ago our life expectancy was less than 70 years old. Today, 25 years later, our life expectancy is about 80 years old. I'm very sure that 25 years from now, our life expectancy could be 85 or 90 years old. So we have to ask these very tough questions... will Singaporeans have enough savings and earnings to see him or her through this longer life span? If the answer is yes, then none of us need to worry, but I don't think the answer is yes. "If you continue to have an income, you can defer drawing your CPF by another two to four years. This way, by the time you really stop working, there will be more money in your CPF. You can also earn interest in your CPF account."

Another female resident Mrs Lim, seek clarification on Mean Testing only applied to Class C Ward and not Class B2 Ward. Minister replied that he believed it only involved Class C Ward.

By this time, the organiser noticed that Minister Lim had exceeded the time available to him, he was scheduled for another meeting. He apologised for taking too long in his answer, and requested that any other questions or feedbacks be delievered to Host MP, Mr Lim Biow Chuan or email to him. The residents and guests were invited to lunch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Ministrial Community Visit to Mountbatten - Minister Lim Swee Say

After weeks of meetings and preparation, the D Day (24th June 2007), finally arrived. There are 4 stations, the Minister from Prime Minister's Office, Mr Lim swee Say will be visiting today.

The First Station is hosted at Civil Plaza at Jalan Batu (inside Tanjong Rhu Housing Estate).

Started the day at 8am, with the flag off of the Walk and Jog Events by Mr Lim Biow Chuan, MP for Marine Parade GRC and Advisor to Marine Parade GRC GROs. Mr Lim joined the group of about 50 participants in the Warm Up exercise and walked with the residents.

The Welcoming Entourage was joined by Dr Fatimah Lateef, MP for Marine Parade GRC and Adviser for Marine Parade GRC GROs at 8.45am. The team in charge of Ministerial Community Visit to various constituency, led by Minister of State (Health) Mr Heng Chee How, MP for Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Ang Mong Seng, MP for Hong Kah GRC and Mr Sam Tan Chin Siong, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC were also present to see the MCV run smoothly.

At 8.55am, we saw the arrival of Minister Lim Swee Say. Minister was given a warm welcome by the entourage and the Pipers from the 18th Singapore Company, Northland Secondary School and 5th Singapore Company from Kuo Chuan Presbyterian Secondary Boys' Brigade. Minister Lim, MP Lim Biow Chuan & MP Dr Fatimah Lateef were garlanded by Grassroots leaders, assisted by pairs of couple of different races in different costumes.

Minister and the Entourage were ushered to the fountain area, in the centre of Civic Plaza. Minister together with MP Lim B C, Dr Fatimah, CCC Chairman Mr Lim Nghee Huat and Organising Chairman Mr Chew Siong Hee to officiate the launching of Mountbatten 50th Anniversary Logo.

The Minister and Entourage were welcomed by people dressed as Earl Admiral Mountbatten at the next trail of The Mountbatten Story - 50 Golden Years, before viewing its exhibition.

Minister and Entourage penned birthday wishes to Mountbatten on Birthday Wish Panel. Minister, next viewed the start of Footprint Trailon Bitz and Pieces of Mountbatten.

The Minister was then led to the children's playground, where he witnessed the children colouring contest in progress. He interacted with the children and parents.

He viewed booths showcasing Grassroots Organisation (GRO) courses and activities. There was also a Carnival section, where there were game stalls and other fringe activities stall. Minister stopped to look at the drawing of cartoon portraits by the artist. He also sat down to allow the specialist to do a silhouette cut out of his face and head.

At the end of the trail of Station One, Minister Lim, MP Lim BC and MP Dr Fatimah were each presented with the cartoon portrait of three of them together.

The Minister and Entourage proceed to the next station, Station 1A, St. Hilda's Community Services Centre at Blk 10 Jalan Batu.