I am grateful that the Ministry of Health is committed to doubling healthcare expenses over the next 5 years. This is in response to our rapidly ageing population and increasing medical costs.
The review will benefit not only those from lower-income but also middle-income families. In addition, vulnerable groups such as those who live up to 90 and the mentally ill who require psychiatric treatment will now be covered.
There is however one group of people who may be left behind in this important healthcare review. These are Singaporeans who are unfortunately born with disabilities, either physical or otherwise.
Today, any person who is born with these illnesses are excluded from our national basic healthcare insurance scheme, MediShield; unlike their more fortunate fellow Singaporeans. Should they fall ill and require,for instance, hospitalization, 100% of all expenses will be paid from their family’s own pockets, in cash or their own Medisave.
My heart aches when I hear about the mixed public feedback on whether Singaporean children with congenital illnesses should be included in MediShield.
Some are opposed to any increase in premium as a result of covering this group of Singaporeans. Others say that introducing insurance for this group could end up raising treatment costs. They claim that once insurance is available, then parents and doctors may want to pursue more expensive treatment, hence increasing the cost of healthcare in Singapore.
To both policy makers and the man in the street, I sincerely urge you to support the extension of MediShield to those who are born with congenital and neonatal conditions.
Healthcare belongs to the same class of essential services such as education, transport, housing, security; which all citizens expect as members of a nation.
Shouldn’t every Singaporean, in whatever condition they are born, enjoy equal access to basic healthcare? Would we not be ashamed if in an extreme situation of eg a national SARS outbreak, MediShield policy holders are treated more favourably than those who are left out of the Scheme?
As we struggle to enhance our country’s Total Fertility Rate, some couples may be discouraged to from having or having more children if they are aware that MediShield does not cover children with congenital or neonatal conditions. Indeed, which woman can guarantee giving birth to a perfectly healthy child? Who can be certain that the rest of us will never have a loved one who is denied access to a national healthcare insurance scheme?
As for those of us who are afraid that any enhancement will be abused, let us find ways to reduce the potential of abuse. For a start, all policy holders, not withstanding their medical condition, could be subject to the same terms and conditions of MediShield such as deductibles, co-insurance, and claim limits.
The fear of being taken advantage of – should not stop us from doing the right thing; whether we are individual citizens or policy makers. It should drive us to work harder to think of creative and constructive solutions that will make us proud to be part of a Singapore family.
The character and maturity of a people and nation is reflected in the way it treats its weakest.
Remember People born with defects did not ask to be born that way n are also the sons n daughters of the Singapore family. Treat them as we would treat our own family members.
Denise Phua Lay Peng/ 潘丽萍/ 摩绵加冷集选区议员 萍良心说/ 隔周二刊登/ 31 July 2012 欢迎上 MY PAPER《我报》