The government's introduction of the Careshield Life medical insurance scheme will deepen the financial woes of Singaporeans while fatten state coffers.
The scheme will compulsorily deduct from Singaporeans' CPF accounts to pay for the premiums starting at age 30. The scheme will replace the current Eldershield programme which allows people to opt out and payment starts only at 40.
This is despite the government is making a handsome profit from Eldershield. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong admitted that the government collected $2.6 billion in Eldershield premiums 2002 and 2015 and only paid out $100 million in claims. That's more that 96 percent of profit.
The payout of Careshield of $600 per month is unrealistically low. It is not much of an improvement over the $400 per month in Eldershield – $600 is barely sufficient to cover basic living costs, much less medical care costs.
Even though the payout is for life (as opposed to 6 years under Eldershield), only those with “severe disabilities” will qualify for the payouts. The lifespan of these individuals are usually not long.
Severely disabled people who are often bed-ridden have to be physically turned every two hours to avoid pressure ulcers. Such care requires home nursing visits which will cost, at the very least, $56 a day. This means that the payout of $600 a month will not even last two weeks.
And what about people who may, at some point in the future, become too sick to work (but have to continue paying premiums) but are not disabled enough to qualify for payouts?
As mentioned, the premiums will be taken from CPF accounts. Singaporeans are already saddled with heavy use of CPF savings for medical care and HDB loans. Further deductions for Careshield will only reduce the already meagre savings for retirees.
Without any meaningful opposition to check it, the PAP government is now dipping into our savings at will and making the people pay for everything while it hoards public funds. Needless to say, this will exacerbate the already serious problem of inequality in Singapore.
The PAP has introduced this scheme without providing satisfactory justification. Why can't the government pay for the increased premiums using the excess funds of $2.5 billion collected under Eldershield?
In addition, all this is happening in the context of the government having accumulated, by some estimates, $1 trillion in our reserves. In 2017 alone, the government collected a budget surplus of nearly $10 billion.
Given the situation and coupled with a climate of ballooning healthcare costs, the SDP calls for healthcare insurance premiums to be capped and the government to pay from its coffers any further increases.
Like Medishield, Medishield Life, Medisave, Eldershield or the latest Careshield Life, Singapore's healthcare system must not be a profit-making one. The PAP must stop treating Singaporeans like consumers to be milked.