SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Health (MOH) is further relaxing the use of Medisave, this time to allow Singaporeans to cover non-urgent hospitalisation in approved hospitals overseas, and for palliative care at home.
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan added that with an ageing population, he is also looking at allowing the use of Medisave for nursing homes.
But for this to happen, he will have to consider raising the CPF contribution rate when the economy recovers.
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan revealed this during his ministerial community visit to the Paya Lebar Division of the Aljunied GRC on Sunday.
Giving details, the MOH said it has allowed the use of Medisave overseas under strict conditions such as emergency treatment.
But over the years, the ministry has received requests from many Singaporeans about allowing the use of their Medisave for elective hospitalisation overseas.
The unionists too have asked for this at a public dialogue with the Health Minister and more recently, the issue was raised in Parliament by several MPs.
MOH said it has decided to allow it as the move will give Singaporeans a wider choice of hospitals when considering elective treatment, so as to help them stretch their Medisave dollars and save money, especially since healthcare costs at some good hospitals abroad is much lower than in Singapore.
Mr Khaw said: “Our Class A patients who are not subsidised may find (certain overseas healthcare) cheaper, so therefore we must allow it. It’s one of those things that you allow because this is a patient’s Medisave account and it opens up options for them.”
But there are concerns over ensuring safety and adequate standards, while guarding against fraudulent claims.
Thus, there will be suitable safeguards.
Overseas Medisave use will only be limited to hospitalisation and day surgeries.
Also, the overseas hospital should have an approved working arrangement with a Medisave-accredited hospital in Singapore.
For now, Parkway Group Healthcare, which runs private hospitals such as Gleneagles, Mount Elizabeth and East Shore hospitals, is one group which has hospitals in the region.
And Medisave claims can only be made through the Singapore hospitals and subject to three conditions.
Firstly, the overseas use of Medisave should be limited to patients who are residents in Singapore.
Next, the local attending doctor should certify the patient’s condition and necessity of medical treatment.
Thirdly, the referring local hospitals should remain accountable for patient satisfaction and good clinical outcomes for patients referred overseas, at the same standard as if the patients were treated in Singapore.
Mr Khaw said: “The feedback I get from the ground is that they also want to assure standard is there and I also need to worry about fraudulent claims.”
Medisave use has also been relaxed to allow patients to pay for palliative care at home.
This is to help terminal patients who prefer to spend their last days with their families.
Currently, this home service is provided free by the voluntary welfare organizations (VWOs).
Mr Khaw said: “Because it’s free so the charities will do whatever they can afford. I think we welcome their free service for certain sectors of the population but if we really want to grow this sector, (the service) cannot be free all round… So I think there is scope for home palliative care… I’m preparing the ground for this growth.”
From October, Medisave can also be used for the outpatient treatment of mental illness under the Chronic Disease Management Programme, which already covers diseases like diabetes and asthma.
For a start, it can be used by patients suffering from schizophrenia and major depression.
Besides that, from June 1, more Medisave can be withdrawn for surgeries. This is because MOH will raise the surgical limits from the current S$150-S$5,000 to S$250-S$7550.
This is to reduce out-of-pocket expenses for all surgical patients, especially those in Class A/B1 and private hospitals.
Mr Khaw says his next move will be to consider if Medisave should be allowed to pay for stays in nursing homes.