SINGAPORE (Aug 20): Changes to government schemes on healthcare and housing were outlined by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday night.

The initiatives, stretching over 50 years or more with some only to be implemented many years from now, will require large expenditure and span “several generations and many General Elections” to realise, said Lee.

The government will also ensure the cost of housing, healthcare and education remains affordable as cost of living pressures grow.

“Housing, education and healthcare are three areas that the Government is very focused on,” said Lee. “We will spare no effort to ensure you can afford them.”

In the area of housing, a new scheme being planned will allow more HDB households to benefit from redevelopment before the 99-year leases on their flats expire.

The Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme (VERS) will take place when the flats reach about 70 years of age.

“If the residents vote yes, we will proceed,” PM Lee said. “The government will buy back the whole precinct, all the flats and redevelop it, and residents can use their proceeds to help pay for another flat.”

“If the residents vote no, then they can continue to live in their flats until their leases run out.”

For healthcare, the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) will be extended to all Singaporeans with chronic conditions regardless of their incomes.

CHAS entitles cardholders to subsidies for outpatient treatment at general practitioners (GPs), and it covers middle- and lower-income Singaporeans.

More polyclinics will also be built across Singapore with Sembawang, Eunos, Kallang and Bukit Panjang, Nee Soon Central and Tampines getting these new healthcare facilities by 2023.

The government will also work out a Merdeka Generation Package, which will help those born in the 1950s to meet their medical expenses.

It will cover similar areas as the Pioneer Generation Package such as outpatient subsidies, Medisave top-ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and payouts for long-term care.

Numbering about half a million and in their 60s today, these citizens would have either left the workforce or will soon be retiring, said PM Lee.

“The benefits will not be as large as for the Pioneer Generation, who had much less advantage in life,” said Lee. “But the Merdeka Generation Package will go some way to relieve their healthcare worries.”