Singaporeans indeed spend more on health care, partly because we have more advanced treatment options and better, more advanced equipment. But a bigger reason is because Singaporeans live longer and get older, which means that we will probably have more episodes of illness and more medical problems to treat.
How did we keep healthcare expenditures for Singaporeans affordable? We have our 3Ms – Medisave, MediShield and Medifund. At the same time, the government offers heavy subsidies – up to 80 percent in our hospitals and also for primary and long-term care. This framework has worked well for many years.
We have made further changes in recent years. First we upgraded MediShield to MediShield Life. The payouts are more generous and there is no lifelong claim limit. You enjoy lifelong protection, even if you already have existing conditions or if you were previously uninsured. Last year alone, almost 200,000 Singaporean participants benefited from MediShield Life and the payouts amounted to more than $ 800 million.
Secondly, we have introduced the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) for outpatient expenses.
At GP clinics your Chas card entitles you to generous subsidies, especially for the lower income. Dr. Lily Neo, who is a GP, told me that she saw more elderly patients after the introduction of Chas. She said that our old people are very resilient and generally scared to see the doctor until they can no longer tahan (Malay to endure). But because of Chas they come to her earlier, which is better and she can treat before their circumstances worsen.
Chas has worked well. As we get older, more of us will have chronic conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure or cholesterol. But we can continue to live a full life if we manage these conditions – by taking good care of ourselves, eating healthy, taking our medicines on a regular basis and following up on our GP.
Chas relates to Singaporeans with a medium and lower income. We will now extend Chas to all Singaporeans with chronic conditions, regardless of income. Benefits will be kicked on the basis of income. The Department of Health (MOH) will announce the details later.
We have also improved financial support for long-term care. We have seen our own parents or grandparents get old, weaker, gradually less able to take care of themselves. They can no longer feed, dress or move independently. They struggle to carry out these activities of daily life or ADLs: activities that you take for granted when you are young. It is a little sad, you see it happen. But that's life. Someday it will happen to us.
So we have the ElderShield scheme. If you can not do three of these ADLs, ElderShield will pay a monthly fee of $ 300 or $ 400 for up to six years. MOH has fundamentally renewed ElderShield and we will soon have CareShield Life. CareShield Life will pay significantly more – at least $ 600 per month and it will pay as long as you live, not just six years.
The scheme will start in 2020. It concerns all Singaporeans who were born in 1980 and younger. Even people with an existing disability are covered. The government subsidizes the premiums for families with a lower and medium income so that these families can pay their share of Medisave.
If you are older – born before 1980 – you can also choose to become a member of CareShield Life. It is not mandatory, but you can participate and I hope you will do so. Why? Because you receive a generous subsidy to help pay the premiums. The government pays, so you get a good deal. But really because it will give you and your family more peace of mind.
These are some of the most important changes in our healthcare financing in the past few years. We want all Singaporeans to have access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. Nobody can be refused medical help because they can not afford it and that is my dedication to you.
We have paid special care to older Singaporeans. Four years ago I launched the Pioneer Generation Package (PGP) for the group of Singaporeans born in 1949 or earlier. They were a special generation, who sacrificed a lot to raise their families. They did not have good educational opportunities. Most of them started working early, had low-paid jobs and could not put much aside for their old age.
They spent most of their working lives in Third World Singapore; only to retire in First World Singapore. It is understandable that they were worried about their care needs. We have implemented the PGP to recognize their sacrifices and to support them in their silver years. So far, we have spent more than $ 1.3 billion of the $ 8 billion that we have reserved for the PGP. 450,000 Pioneers have benefited – and they deserve it completely.
When we introduced the PGP, we knew that Singaporeans who are slightly younger than the pioneers … would just go missing … those born between 1950 and 1959.
We have not forgotten this group. They have survived the tumultuous 1950s and early 1960s.
First came the struggle for independence from the British. At home, politics in Singapore was fiercely contested, about different visions on the future of the colony. In 1959 Singapore gained internal self-government, a big step towards independence. The PAP (People & # 39; s Action Party) won the general election that year and formed the government for the first time. Then came the split with the Communists, merger with Malaysia, and then separation and unexpected independence – alone.
For those born in the 1950s, these were indelible, formative experiences that shaped them for life. They were too young to participate in events, but most of them were old enough to feel the electricity in the air, to share the excitement of change, to have the hope of a better tomorrow.
They saw the posters and banners that adorned the streets, and were moved by the collection "merdeka". One word that meant so much – liberation, freedom, independence. One word that expressed the determination and the passion, ambitions and ambitions of a people that was awakened and on the move.
And rarely were the people more excited than on June 3, 1959, when Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, newly elected Prime Minister, closed a huge meeting at the Padang. As he told the crowd from the town hall, "Once in the history of a people, there comes a moment of great change." Tonight is such a moment in our lives … We start a new chapter in the history of Singapore. "
This group, born in the 1950s, is the Merdeka generation. Today there are 500,000 of the Merdeka generation. I am proud to be one of them.
After experiencing the battles and the revolutions of the Merdeka struggle and seeing how their parents have abraded and beaten them, as the Merdeka generation grew up, they instinctively understood what was at stake. They accepted hardships, offered sacrifices, fulfilled the duty and worked with their leaders to build a better future. The men were among the earliest parties that were called up for the national service. They were the first of the SAF (Singapore armed forces) – the army, the navy and the air force.
Many, especially girls, have not finished their training. They came early to work to support the family and younger brothers and sisters. Some joined the workforce in the midst of economic uncertainty and high unemployment, while British troops withdrew from Singapore. Everything started to work when the wages were still low. Together with the Pioneer Generation, the Merdeka Generation contributed to the building of Singapore to make Merdeka independence a success.
Compared to the Pioneer Generation, the Merdeka generations are better off. They were born later and benefited from an additional decade of economic growth. They were generally better educated than the pioneers, especially the younger ones.
The Merdeka generation earned more on their lives and collected more CPF savings, because wages rose sharply in the early 1980s. CPF rates also rose significantly. But of course the cohorts that came after them did even better. As we improved the education system, more of the younger cohorts earned years in year from degrees & degrees and degrees and found higher-skilled and better-paid jobs.
Most of today's Merdeka generation are in their sixties. They have left the staff or are going to retire soon. Many have similar concerns as the Pioneers. They look at their CPF (Central Provident Fund) savings and Medisave accounts because they are concerned about their medical needs as they get older. I think we owe something to them.
The government will develop a "Merdeka generation package". The Merdeka generation package helps this group to cover their medical costs. We will announce the details next year.
It will cover similar areas to the PG package. For example outpatient subsidies, Medisave top-ups, premium subsidies from MediShield Life and payments for long-term care. The benefits will not be as great as for the Pioneer Generation, which had much less benefit in life. But the Merdeka generation package will be a way to ease their care concerns.
More importantly, it will show our appreciation for the Merdeka generation and their contributions.
In summary, we make major changes to our healthcare financing framework. We have strengthened the 3M & # 39; s and introduced MediShield Life. We will soon improve Chas and introduce CareShield Life. We have implemented the PG package. We will set aside a significant amount to implement a Merdeka generation package.
Our schedules are now more comprehensive and comprehensive, and Singaporeans can have more peace of mind that their care needs are well taken care of.