SINGAPORE (Feb 18): As more Singaporeans enter their senior years, healthcare needs to grow, according to finance minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget 2019 speech.

Apart from already implementing changes to make healthcare more affordable, accessible and comprehensive, as well as providing greater social support to keep seniors active, another strategy is to provide greater healthcare assurance.

In an effort to enhance access to neighbourhood clinics that provide primary care to Singaporeans, Heng says that it will made more affordable to consult neighbourhood doctors.

The Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), which was introduced in 2012, will see subsidies enhanced at general practitioner (GP) clinics in three ways:

  • CHAS will be extended to cover all Singaporeans for chronic conditions, regardless of income, according to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s announcement at the National Day Rally last year.
  • Lower- to middle-income Singaporeans who are CHAS Orange cardholders will now receive subsidies for common illnesses, on top of the current subsidies received for chronic conditions.
  • Subsidies for complex chronic conditions will be increased.

In addition, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will be looking at how to help CHAS clinics better track their patient’s progress and outcomes. It will also review its clinical guidelines for care provided at CHAS dental clinics, to ensure that the care delivered is appropriate to patients’ needs.

“With these changes, we expect to pay out more than $200 million a year in CHAS subsidies. MOH will provide more details on these changes at the Committee of Supply (COS),” says Heng.

MOH will also be introducing the new CareShield Life from 2020, an enhancement to the current ElderShield scheme.

CareShield Life will provide lifetime coverage, with higher monthly payouts of at least $600 monthly for the severely disabled, offsetting long-term care costs for individuals and their families.

The government will also provide subsidies and premium support to ensure that CareShield Life premiums are affordable. Participation incentives will be offered to existing cohorts, born in 1979 or earlier, to join CareShield Life.

For the severely disabled, lower-income Singaporeans who need additional financial support for long-term care, the ElderFund will be launched in 2020. This includes those who might not be able to join CareShield Life or have low MediSave balances.

Since the cost of long-term care is high and is ever increasing as the population ages, another $3.1 billion is set aside for premium subsidies and other forms of support for Singaporeans, bringing the total budget to $5.1 billion.

“The government will put this $5.1 billion into a new Long-Term Care Support Fund. This will help fund the CareShield Life subsidies and other long-term care support measures, such as ElderFund,” says Heng.