S'pore getting left further behind in modern healthcare


Over the last few years, the United States went through a bruising fight in the battle over its healthcare system. It started when President Barack Obama came into office and introduced the Affordable Care Act.

Despite Republican opposition, Congress managed to pass the law to bring the US closer to the system of universal healthcare.

Essentially, the Act, popularly known as Obamacare, requires all Americans to have medical insurance. The US was one of the last few holdouts among the industrialised countries to adopt a system that enables all citizens to receive proper and adequate healthcare.

It survived a scare when the country's Supreme Court was called on to rule on its constitutionality. The nine Justices ruled (narrowly) in the Act's favour.

Of late, India has also started to make its healthcare coverage universal. It plans to supply free drugs to all. Described as "game-changing", the country's health ministry is investing an initial US$5 billion in the initiative.

"This starts us on the road to universal health care," an official from the Public Health Foundation said. Presently about 78 percent of healthcare spending is out-of-pocket. The rate is one of the highest in the world.

The latest plan will significantly reduce the burden on patients especially the poor. Indian authorities estimate that about 40 million Indians face severe financial problems annually because of treatment costs.

That leaves Singapore. Almost all of the First World countries have universal healthcare coverage or are moving towards it. The World Health Organisation has recommended that healthcare systems adopt universal coverage to better take care of the health of the people.

In Singapore the PAP continues to make healthcare a commodity where patients pay for what they can afford. Such a profit-making approach has left many unable to afford medical treatment especially if they are struck by catastrophic or chronic illnesses.

The SDP has proposed a National Healthcare Plan where treatment is made available to all under a significantly and genuinely subsidised rate. Under our Plan, patients pay into a pool called the National Health Investment Fund (NHIF) according to how much they earn. This will be taken from their CPF savings.

This will take the place of Medisave which will be abolished and the funds returned to Singaporeans' CPF. Contributions to the NHIF will be a fraction of what the people now pay into the Medisave and out-of-pocket.

In return, patients pay only 10 percent of their hospital bills and only up to a maximum of $2,000 per year. The rest will be shouldered by the Government. Low-income and poor patients will be completely subsidised.

This will ensure that all Singaporeans, regardless of status and wealth, will receive quality healthcare.

The biggest difference between the PAP's and SDP's systems is that the Government will undertake a greater burden of our national healthcare expenditure. Currently, the Government's share is 30 percent. Under the SDP's proposal, the amount will increase to 70 percent. Healthcare funding is not an expense but an investment in the people's health. A healthy society, physically and psychologically, is a productive and progressive society. 

The SDP National Healthcare Plan, drawn up by the party's Healthcare Advisory Panel, will bring Singapore in line with international standards of universal healthcare coverage.
Healthcare Monday, 09 July 2012 speakup2 Print

LEAVE A COMMENT