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MediShield Life’s life-saving expansion

MediShield Life’s life-saving expansion

Published on

20 Mar 2024

Published by

The Straits Times

The recent announcement that MediShield Life’s coverage would be expanded to cover new ground-breaking treatments is in keeping with the protective purpose of the scheme. Launched in November 2015, the basic and mandatory health insurance plan revolutionised healthcare in Singapore by offering protection to all Singaporeans against large medical bills for life, regardless of pre-existing conditions. Expanding the scheme’s coverage to new ground-breaking treatments – specifically cell, tissue and gene therapy products, or CTGTPs – would represent arriving at a new healthcare frontier. Some CTGTPs are life-changing. Given that the quality of healthcare is an essential index of national well-being, Singaporeans need to look at MediShield Life premiums – which look set to increase correspondingly – in the context of living in a society where children, especially, do not have to perish from treatable conditions. The scheme’s expansion deserves popular support.


Of course, cost considerations will remain important and get weighed by the authorities against the benefits of therapeutic outcomes. Thus, a treatment is not deemed cost-effective if it is fairly expensive but has only a small chance of curing a small group of people. Given this approach, there is no danger that economically exotic treatments will find their way into MediShield Life coverage, thereby raising premiums unreasonably for Singaporeans at large. However, CTGTPs which are assessed to be safe, clinically effective and cost-effective, do need to be on the list of options available to Singaporeans.


Recommendations by an expert panel on the review of the MediShield Life scheme are expected by the second half of 2024. It was last reviewed in 2020, when premiums went up by 25 per cent on average. A rise in premiums would provide more assurance against large medical bills apart from paying for access to ground-breaking treatments. That is welcome, of course, but no rise in MediShield Life premiums is ever taken lightly since it would affect Singaporeans across the board, including those in the lower-income brackets. In this context, the Government has said that it will do what is necessary to ensure that premiums can be paid fully by MediSave as far as possible. For example, it will consider enhancing premium subsidies or MediSave top-ups for specific groups.


Fundamentally, the reassurance is that no one will lose MediShield Life coverage because of a genuine inability to afford the premiums. Already, there are premium subsidies for lower-to-middle income-earners, Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation subsidies, and additional premium support for those who are unable to afford their premiums even after premium subsidies. What is important is that MediShield should remain viable financially as a national scheme that assuages the citizen’s fear of large hospital bills, while also facilitating cutting-edge treatments.



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



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