Recently, I fetched a father and son from East Shore Hospital at Joo Chiat Place to Bedok North Ave 4. The son was huge – double the size of the old man even as they look similar in features. A chip off the old block as the saying goes. I innocently asked what happened to his son when I saw his face half bandaged.
“Oh, he had a cut whilst playing soccer in school. I brought him to East Shore Hospital yesterday around 10 pm. Got admitted and they patched his jaw with some stitches. There was a deep cut on his jaw. Luckily no fractures and no concussion on his head after X-ray and MR scan!” said the old man.
It was about noon when I fetched them. They were waiting for taxi for quite some time. The father complained that it’s always so difficult to get a taxi when you need it urgently. He’s rushing home as he had to get to work cuz he’s on half day leave.
The father and son were chattering in Mandarin in the taxi. I overheard them talking about the expensive medical costs. “Fortunately, I got buy medical insurance for you. Every year I pay about $335 for you. I’ve been paying for the past 15 yrs and now we have claimed back the expensive medical costs of more than $5,000!”
The father took out his handphone and started to calculate the total amount he paid for his son’s 3rd party medical insurance and the total medical costs for the one night costly stay at the hospital. He then declared that the insurance company still made some money from him despite the hefty hospitalization claims.
I then interrupted and told him that the government is about to introduce medical insurance for all of us including PRs. They are still debating the proposal in parliament. Soon, it will be implemented and it’s compulsory for all of us.
The father then said that he heard about it i.e. Medishield Life but still he’s at a loss. He’s not so sure of the scheme. From what he heard from friends and read on the internet, lots of people are unhappy about it.
I briefly explained to him. “Actually I’m also not very sure of the details. What I know is that it is an universal health care for all. From baby till the day you die all must pay medical premiums. How much you pay depending on your age. Whether you got any medical condition or not you will still be covered in the scheme.”
“Is it similar to what I’ve been paying for my son, myself and other family members?”
“Yes. In a way it is. Instead of paying to a 3rd party insurance company for your medical needs, now the government has taken over the role cuz not everyone like you could afford the 3rd party insurance. Some of them don’t even bother to buy medical insurance at all. The current medishield or even your medisave is definitely not enough to cover your medical costs in the event of prolong illness or a major operation in a hospital”
I added further, “We know that medical costs will definitely keep rising. The costs of the same operation few years ago will not be the same today. It will surely cost more than you could pay in future.”
“I am working and I could afford. What about those who are not working and can’t afford to pay the premiums?”
“The government has committed more than 4 billions to subsidize or pay for those citizens (NOT PRs) who really could not afford. Maybe they feel that it’s worth while to subsidize or pay citizens’ medical premiums than foot their hefty medical bills in the event they need to go for a major operation.”
I spoke to the passenger in English. I then said, “like you, I’m buying 3rd party medical insurance for my aged parents, myself and my son. I am using CPF medisave and cash to pay for their medical insurance amounting to more than $3,000 every year! With the government’s latest initiative, I need not have to pay cash out of my pocket. I also need not use my medisave to pay for my parents’ medical insurance premiums except my son who is not working and got no CPF.
I then gave the example of my 72 yrs old mother to illustrate what medishield life entails. “Currently my mother has $15,478 in her CPF medisave account. Assuming that she has to pay about $1,000 premium from her CPF medisave account per year (which is what I’m paying for her using my own CPF medisave plus cash to 3rd party insurance company), it will last for the next 15 yrs! She will be 87 yrs by then when her CPF medisave account is depleted.”
“For the next 15 yrs, I do not have to pay a single cent for her medical needs. I will have 15 yrs peace of mind. I need not worry if she is warded for any major operation or any prolong illness cuz the medishield life covers all these. Once her CPF medisave is depleted, I’m not sure if I will have to pay for her premiums out of my CPF medisave or the government will pay for her?”
My passenger was impressed. In that case, “Like you, I need not use cash to pay for 3rd party medical insurance any more?” Link
I would like to reiterate that my mother has been a housewife all her life. She never held any full time job. Only recently, about 7 to 8 yrs ago when my brother migrated to Vancouver with his family and all the grandchildren have grown up that she found it boring staying at home doing nothing that she decided to work. She is currently working as a kitchen helper earning about $900 monthly. She’s enjoying her work cuz her employer will entertain her reasonable demands such as taking a few days off without pay before the CNY to do spring cleaning for the house or going for medical appointments every now and then. I told her it’s due to her pink IC that her employer is tolerating her cuz they need to fulfill their quota for work permit holders. That’s the privilege of holding a pink IC.
Back to the question as to how she could accumulate more than $15,000 in her CPF medisave account even though she’s been a housewife not holding any full-time job? The amount is actually due to the quarterly workfare that the government is giving her. Also every now and then, the government tops up senior citizens’ CPF medisave account. Plus the 4% earned and the compound interest resulted in her having more than $15,000 in her medisave account.
If the government does not initiate such a scheme i.e. Universal Healthcare system for all citizens, the $15,000 will be wiped out in a single major operation. I’ll have to foot her medical bills using my own CPF medisave once her CPF medisave is depleted. I would rather that she uses up her $15,000 to pay for the yearly medical premiums lasting 15 yrs than not using it at all. The fact that she is aging and hospitalization is definitely a possibility in the near future. That is the reality and an alarming fact.
“If what you say is so true then why there is so much opposition to the idea?” my passenger was quite confused when I painted the above scenario to him.
“You see, humans are such that they want freebies. No one likes to pay. They think that nothing will happen to them. Once they are asked to pay, they will jump. They expect the government to pay for their medical costs. They forget that the government has no money. Whatever money the government has is from the taxes collected from the people.”
“Just like you. If you did not pay the $300 plus yearly premiums for your son over the past 15 yrs, you would have to foot the $5,000 plus medical bills your son just incurred at the hospital. Nothing is free in this world. Someone will have to pay for the medical bills. Either you pay from your own pocket, the government pays (tax payers’ money) or the insurance company (provided you pay the premiums). It is as simple as that.
Soon, we reached Bedok North Ave 4. It’s time for the father and son to alight. The father declared that it’s a good medical scheme that the government is trying to implement BUT “I will check further on it since it’s going to affect me when it’s passed by parliament into law.”
My parting shot, “Basically, it’s a good policy. They just don’t know how to sell the idea. They are poor in their marketing strategy. The government is not so stupid as to introduce a policy that is harmful to the population. They risk losing power if they don’t handle carefully this politically sensitive and emotional issue affecting every citizen!”
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