Category: Current Affairs
Published on Wednesday, 11 December 2013 00:00
50 people gathered at Ren Ci Community hospital to make the beginning of the beginning of the much touted Medishield Life focus groups. The ongoing feedback exercise, which began three months after PM Lee Hsien Long announced it at his National Day rally, is intended to ask Singaporeans about their concerns about the nation's healthcare system. The G is keen to compile public feedback on the nation's 3M system before it transforms the current one into something resembling universal coverage for all Singaporeans.
The night's discussion commenced with an eye opener: half of the focus group session was spent explaining away Medishield misconceptions after the attendees were asked to relate their experiences with Medishield.
Here's some examples of what was heard that night:
"Medishield and private medical insurance are two mutually exclusive insurance schemes. You cannot have one or the other."
"Why is it that I am not allowed to use my Medishield to buy private medical insurance? Then what is Medishield for?!"
"Why can't I use my Medisave to pay for my hospitalization?!"
"My medical insurance will drop me if I have a recurrence of cancer! I will be uninsurable and so I will have no way to pay for my cancer treatments and have to die a slow death!"
It was painfully obvious that most of the night's participants knew little about how the 3M entitlement program actually worked. It really felt like only a handful of people in that room fully understood how the current Medishield system worked. And those enlightened individuals were either members of the Medishield Life review committee, or the lone individual who worked in the insurance industry. Several people sported confused looks as they misconceptions explained to them.
This is not a good sign I thought: How are Singaporeans supposed to come up with an informed wish list of things they want to see in the Medishield Life program if they are still mostly ignorant of how the current system works to cover them?
There was an upside to this conundrum though. Despite the mass confusion, everyone present were still encouraged to speak their minds. Several people in the room said that it was important to ensure that vulnerable Singaporeans were covered under the upcoming Medishield life program.
However, one individual rose to challenge this thinking by saying that taxes would have to be raised to pay for providing insurance to the uninsurable. This individual even went on to say that he was unwilling to pay more income tax to subsidize other people's healthcare. He even proposed that the current 8% of Singaporeans without health insurance should remain uninsured or be shuffled off to a separate pool from the general populace just to keep insurance premiums cheap.
It was a point of view that was quickly repudiated. Members around the room rose up to point out that it is our G's duty to care for the most vulnerable within our society. These same members also went on to point out that they recognized that the G's challenge regarding Medishield Life was finding the right balance between universal coverage for all Singaporeans and keeping premiums affordable. It was a point that drew cautious murmurs as everyone registered their agreement, drawing the night's session drew to a close.