SINGAPORE (Feb 8): In Singapore, long-term care for chronic conditions is complemented by the private sector, including non-profit groups and private healthcare services providers. But observers say there could be more government support for families, particularly in the areas of long-term and primary care, so as to keep these services affordable and accessible to all.

The Ministry of Health has made concerted efforts to keep medical costs under control and strengthen the provision of overall healthcare services.

Last November, it introduced benchmarks for private practice professional fees for 222 common surgical procedures, taking into account the fees charged in 2017. It has also introduced a mandatory co-payment scheme, where patients have to pay at least 5% of the total hospital bill in cash.

This is in a bid to stem the apparent overconsumption that arose from how hospitalisation insurance plans had been structured to include “riders” that would cover the whole medical bill, as charged by the hospital.

Over the years, the local government has also spent a significant amount of funds on a host of initiatives aimed at helping people manage their medical bills. 

However, national expenditure for healthcare has risen steeply, increasing from $3.6 billion in 2009 to $10.5 billion in 2017. It is expected to exceed $13 billion by 2020 — about 3% of GDP, or three times the levels since 2009. And, with an ageing population and rising incidences of chronic illnesses, spending on healthcare, either by the state or an individual, is unlikely to fall.

As such, the challenge ahead is how costs can be managed even as affordable healthcare is made more accessible, particularly in primary and long-term care services.

Now, all eyes are on the upcoming Budget, which is expected to provide details of a healthcare package for the so-called Merdeka Generation, or Singaporeans born in the 1950s, and who would be in their 60s.

Find out more in this week’s The Edge Singapore (Issue 868, week of Feb 11), on sale now at newsstands. Subscribers can log in and read the story or click here to subscribe.