This was first published in Channel NewsAsia on 23 Feb 2019
SINGAPORE: At first look, the newly announced Merdeka Generation Package (MGP) sounds generous.
With S$6.1 billion set aside for now, and valued at a total of S$8 billion in today’s terms after
But some worry whether it will be enough. Considering that the current life expectancy in Singapore is now 84.8 years, it can mean that this programme will have to last nearly 25 years and perhaps longer, yet is valued at less than the Pioneer Generation Package’s full projected cost of S$9 billion.
Subsidies are on the overall also lower, as was expected, as the Merdeka Generation benefited from advances in healthcare, manpower and a growing Singapore economy more so than the Pioneer Generation.
There are some details missing, for instance how much exactly the subsidies for GPs and dental clinics are, but those for outpatient care stand at 25
In the likely situation that, over time, one’s medical needs escalate with age, the shortfall in financial coverage becomes altogether more glaring.
Still, although every Singaporean eligible for the MGP stands to gain from it, the benefits are progressive in its effects, to those in the lower income brackets.
Professionals, managers, executives
The MGP also builds on the Community Health Assistance Scheme (CHAS), enhancements to provide stronger coverage for seniors and low-income households and include chronic conditions were recently
If taken in the context of other strides made to bolster the acute and primary care sectors in Singapore, the MGP puts in place another building block to help seniors of that vintage and their families get better access to quality but affordable healthcare.
The Ministry of Health will also open more polyclinics and hospitals by 2030, benefiting the larger population. The additional savings of travelling to a clinic or hospital near your home will be a boon for lower wage earners, retirees, the disabled and those who need to make frequent visits to seek treatment for their medical conditions.
But further changes in medicine and the delivery of healthcare can help provide greater assurance, if patients are open to new ways of consultation including telemedicine and as home-visits by healthcare volunteer practitioners become more prevalent. There have been attempts to push the envelop and pilot initiatives, but wider adoption will take time.
Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat outlined three strategies towards its long-term plan to build a caring and inclusive society. Apart from uplifting Singaporeans to
One challenge in healthcare financing is that older, low-wage workers have insufficient funds in their Medisave accounts, which they could have used to purchase health insurance for themselves, whereas PMETs are more likely to have a good amount in their Medisave account and have good insurance coverage.
Since the Merdeka Generation Medisave top-ups will be given to all, why not let those who can afford it to donate their S$200 Medisave top-up, to be redeployed by the Government to others in a lower wage bracket?
If we want to build a community of care, the Government could also consider supporting this
It might not be a big, sweeping healthcare programme but can go some way to support low-wage seniors’ healthcare needs.
The Government can show that every Singaporean can help each other and play a part in the healthcare financing ecosystem, even as it puts in place huge programmes like the Merdeka Generation Package to provide broad-based aid across the board.
The article was contributed by Gan Kwee Lian, Tax, Infrastructure, Government and Healthcare, KPMG in Singapore. Views expressed are his own.