Following the launch of the SDP’s alternative healthcare policy last year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that it would review the healthcare system to ensure that public healthcare remained affordable.$CUT$
While the SDP welcomes such a move, we fear that the changes may not be meaningful. This is because the Minister for Health Mr Gan Kim Yong said that the MOH would continue using Medisave, Medishield, and Medifund (3Ms) as the basis of financing healthcare in Singapore.
The inadequacy of the 3Ms system lies at the heart of the problem of our healthcare system. Medisave is our money, taken from our CPF savings. Another big chunk of our healthcare expense comes from out-of-pocket payments which is the highest in East Asia. Public hospitals in Singapore have accumulated $110 million in outstanding patient debts as of end 2011.
In contrast, the Singapore Government spends only 3% of GDP on healthcare – one of the lowest in the world. This has resulted in many Singaporeans putting off medical treatment and avoiding recommended screenings.
In 2012, a boy was warded for meningitis and after spending several weeks in hospital was handed a bill of $130,000, with a first down payment of $30,000. When the boy’s parents could not pay the bill, they were allowed to stretch the payment – over 42 years.
Although the family were permanent residents in Singapore, the bill would still be hefty if the patient was a Singaporean. Many Singaporeans find themselves unable to afford medical treatment especially if they were struck by a chronic or catastrophic illness. This is a source of frustration and anger for many Singaporeans.
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With the SDP drawing up our National Healthcare Plan: Caring For All Singaporeans, the Government is now promising to increase its portion of healthcare expenditure by $4 billion – over 5 years.
This is not much especially if one factors in inflation. The fundamental problem is that Government still regards healthcare as a commodity not a right. In other words, healthcare in Singapore is not universal where everyone is guaranteed proper and adequate healthcare.
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In Singapore, the rich get better treatment because they are able to afford it and their waiting times from operations are shorter because they pay more. The SDP believes that healthcare should be based on one’s clinical needs and condition, not status and wealth.
We look forward to presenting our alternative healthcare policy to Singaporeans at the next general elections and to seek the support of our fellow Singaporeans.