14 March 2012
Editor, Forum Page
Time to widen the coverage of Medishield
Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong wishes to consult the public on hisproposal to extend Medishield to cover birth defects. He said that premiumrates will go up. This is likely to be a futile exercise, as some people who donot face this risk will be against any change that will add to their cost of living.
As a national insurance scheme, Medishield should be extended to covermost types of conditions that are outside the control of the individuals. Havinga child with birth defects is clearly an uncontrollable risk that should be covered.
The Minister should also look at other flaws in this system, such asthe large number of people who did not join this scheme for various reasons atthe time of its implementation and who now wish to be insured.
Most of these people are older, and may have some chronic illnesses, which prevent them from being accepted under CPF's current underwriting rules. But they do pay a higher premium that is based on their age, and may be willing to pay a loading or surcharge. It is better to allow them to join Medishield and enjoy the benefit from the risk pooling, rather thanto let them remain outside the system.
Those who are provided with medical benefits by their employers should be allowedto stay outside of Medishield, if they wish to, and join Medishield at a later datewhen they are not employed or not covered. This will avoid the wastage of doublecoverage, which add to the cost of living.
As a national scheme, Medishield should adopt an underwriting approach that isdifferent from profit-making private insurers. The aim should be to provide coveragefor nearly everyone, rather than to select only the healthy lives to make a profit.
If the Minister is worried about increasing the premium, there are other ways of dealingwith this challenge, instead of restricting coverage. Some of the cost can be borneby the Government and more importantly, the medical charges should be regulated andnot allowed to escalate due to market failures.Tan Kin Lian