Ministry of Health followed up with the release of more details on the changes in health policies that will benefit many more Singaporeans, especially those from the lower and middle income groups:
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will be introducing a series of initiatives to make healthcare more affordable for Singaporeans. This is part of the Ministry’s on-going effort to review and evolve our healthcare system to better serve the needs of Singaporeans. These changes will be implemented by the first quarter of 2012.
The key changes are as follows:
1) MOH will enhance subsidies to make medications more affordable by offering greater financial assistance on selected high-cost drugs to middle – low income patients.
MOH will increase the drug subsidy for selected high-cost standard drugs for eligible patients, required for chronic disease management from the current 50% to 75%. The same eligibility framework as the PCPS will apply i.e. patients with per capita monthly household income of $1,500 or less, economically inactive households, and patients with residential Annual Value of $13,000 or less.
These drug subsidies are applicable to eligible patients seeking care in the Restructured Hospitals, National Centres, as well as at the Polyclinics. They will have to show their healthcare benefits card to qualify for the subsidies.
In addition, MOH will enhance subsidies under the Medication Assistance Fund (MAF). This fund was set up in 2010, to help patients pay for expensive drugs used for specific medical conditions. The MAF currently covers selected expensive medication, including certain cancer drugs.
However, some patients, especially those with less common diseases or complex conditions, may not respond well to the standard drugs. To financially assist these patients, the MAF will be expanded to cover other non-standard drugs if they are assessed to be clinically necessary and appropriate for the treatment of the patients’ conditions. The hospitals will put in place a framework to assess patients’ need for the drug on a case-by-case basis. The level of subsidy provided under MAF will also increase from the current 50% to 75% for needy Singaporeans.
2) Private outpatient primary care will be made more affordable and accessible for middle-low income patients, thus enabling these Singaporeans to better manage their chronic diseases early, remain healthy and active and avoid unnecessary complications.
The qualifying income for the Primary Care Partnership Scheme (PCPS) will be raised from the current $800 to $1,500 per capita monthly household income. At the same time, the age criteria for eligibility will be lowered from the current 65 years old to 40 years old.
There will be two benefit tiers under the expanded scheme. With this change, 710,000 Singaporeans can receive subsidised care at participating PCPS GP clinics to better manage their chronic conditions. Successful PCPS applicants will receive a healthcare benefits card to identify them as PCPS members to the participating clinics. There are currently more than 31,000 PCPS members, and 405 participating GP clinics and 170 participating dental clinics. The new changes will be implemented from early 2012.
3) The annual withdrawal limit for Medisave use for outpatient care will be raised so that patients can tap on more Medisave to pay for their bills.
To help Singaporeans better manage chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, lipid disorder and stroke in the outpatient setting, the Medisave withdrawal limit allowable for such outpatient treatments will be raised from $300 to $400 per Medisave account, per year. The scheme will be renamed Medisave400.
Medisave400 can also be tapped on for preventive mammogram screening and selected vaccinations. About 112,000 chronic disease patients will stand to benefit from the scheme.
4) Medifund will also be expanded to include non-residential Intermediate and Long Term Care (ILTC) services, so that elderly Singaporeans can recover and age gracefully in the community.
The Government will further enhance Medifund to include non-residential ILTC services such as day rehabilitation, home medical and home nursing. With this, needy Singaporeans will be able to opt for non-residential care, thus helping them recover and age in the community in the company of family and friends. This is expected to benefit about 1000 more Singaporeans, a 10% to 20% increase in the number of Medifund recipients in the ILTC sector. These schemes will be introduced from early 2012.