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As the world moves towards universalhealthcare, Singapore is being left behind. At the 66th World HealthAssembly which is currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, theUnited Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) havecalled for governments to adopt universal health care policies.$CUT$
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong isreported to be in attendance at the Assembly. The PAP Government has tillnow refused to make healthcare in Singapore universal, that is,available to all regardless of financial status.
At the opening of the Assembly, UNSecretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “We must keep moving towardsuniversal health coverage, so all people can have access to thehealth services they need without suffering financial hardship.”
WHO Director-General Margaret Chanreiterated that “everyone, irrespective of their ability to pay,should have access to the quality health care they need, withoutrisking financial ruin.”
Dr Chan praised the commitment of agrowing number of countries which have shifted towards universalcoverage for demonstrating “strong emphasis on equity and socialjustice”.
Advanced economiesall have universal health coverage for the citizens. Even the UnitedStates, one of the last holdouts, recently adopted the AffordableHealthcare Act under President Barack Obama which guarantees allAmericans due healthcare.
Singapore thus remains one of the fewcountries in the world which refuses its people universalhealthcare.
Singaporeans are expected to pay forthe main bulk of our medical expenses when we fall ill. This is donethrough our Medisave accounts and out-of-pocket payments. TheGovernment pays only a minor portion (30%) of what we collectively spend on healthcare. Governments in other developed economies pay about 70%.
Because of this, many Singaporeans facefinancial ruin when they meet with catastrophic or chronic illness.Medical expenses are one of the top three reasons why Singaporeans gointo debt.
Others avoid seeking medicaltreatment because they cannot afford it. Take, for example, Mr Ivan Lim who was diagnosed withdiabetes. Because he faced financial difficulties, he tried tosave money by taking his medication once every three days instead of daily.As a result, his condition worsened which resulted in his leg having to beamputated.
The SDP has proposed doing away withthe Medisave scheme and replacing it with a state-run National HealthInvestment Fund (NHIF) where the Government contributes the majorityof the funds with Singaporeans co-paying a smaller portion.
Under this plan, a working Singaporean pays an averageof $600 a year depending on the level of one’s income. This is afraction of what one currently pays into the Medisave. Low-wage workers, the elderly and those without income do not have to contribute to the NHIF.
If one falls ill, patients pay only 10% of the bill out-of-pocket (capped at $2,000 per year) withthe rest of the expenses paid by the NHIF. The 10% iswaived for the elderly and poor who have no income.
This system ensures that allSingaporeans are provided proper healthcare without anyone beingthreatened with financial ruin if he/she falls ill. In other words, the SDP National Healthcare Planis universal.
As countries move towards a more equitable and caring healthcare system, Singapore has become the odd-one-out.
(To read the entire SDP healthcare paper, please click here.)