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By March 2024, reapplying for MediFund not required when going to different healthcare facilities

By March 2024, reapplying for MediFund not required when going to different healthcare facilities

Published on

07 Nov 2023

Published by

The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - By March 2024, needy patients will no longer have to reapply for MediFund when they transfer between or go to different healthcare institutions.


This comes as the Ministry of Health (MOH) is set to roll out changes to the MediFund application process to smoothen the journey for such patients as they move between different healthcare settings, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung in Parliament on Tuesday.


MediFund helps needy Singaporeans who are unable to pay their medical bills after government subsidies, insurance and MediSave deductions.


Mr Ong was responding to a question by Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC) on how many Singaporeans had successfully applied for MediFund at one healthcare institution and have at least an annual appointment at another healthcare institution, and how the process can be streamlined.


Mr Ong said that around 30 per cent of MediFund beneficiaries received help from more than one institution within the same healthcare cluster, and around 40 per cent received MediFund assistance from more than one institution across healthcare clusters.


This is because MediFund approvals are done by the MediFund committees of individual healthcare institutions. This allows the committees to exercise greater discretion in assessing the applications, improving accessibility.


“However, this also inevitably leads to multiple assessments for the same patients across institutions, which add to their inconvenience. We need to strike a balance between the two objectives of flexibility and convenience,” said Mr Ong.


To do so, three changes will be rolled out by March 2024.


First, acute hospitals and step-down care facilities will have an arrangement to recognise each other’s MediFund assessments.


This means that when a patient benefiting from MediFund is transferred from an acute hospital to step-down care, he will continue to benefit from the scheme without having to reapply again.


As the medical bills and social and financial circumstances of patients may vary over time or as they transfer from an institution to another, the automatic extension of MediFund will be for three months, or until the receiving institution reassesses the patient’s eligibility for continued MediFund assistance.


Second, there will be an arrangement within institutions of the same healthcare cluster to recognise one another’s MediFund assessments for outpatient care.


This means that when a patient receiving MediFund at an outpatient clinic, like a polyclinic, goes to another institution in the same cluster, like a specialised outpatient clinic, he will automatically receive support and will not need to reapply for his outpatient bills.


This automatic support will be valid for a year, from the time MediFund is first extended to the patient.


Third, there will be more support for those who leave the ComCare scheme, which is the Government’s primary financial aid scheme for needy families. While MediFund assistance is automatically extended to those on ComCare, the help is withdrawn when patients leave the scheme. To better support such patients as they become self-reliant, MediFund support will continue for three months after they leave Comcare.


Mr Ong said: “I should clarify that under the law, MediFund committees of each healthcare institution continue to have full discretion over the application outcome and extent of support, to prioritise support towards those who need it the most.


“Notwithstanding, MOH has been engaging them to agree to support the changes that I just mentioned. MOH will be issuing these guidelines to the MediFund committees.”


Dr Tan also asked if more help could be extended to elderly patients who are less mobile and have to make appointments with medical social workers to renew their support.


He suggested making improvements to medical social work departments in hospitals, so elderly patients can have their appointments on the same day, or to tap social service offices or family service centres for assessment at their homes.


In response, Mr Ong thanked Dr Tan for his suggestions.


He said that other possible ways to improve the financial and medical aid system include digitalisation and tapping active ageing centres, but exploring the options will take time.



Source: The Straits Times © SPH Media Limited. Reproduced with permission.



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