SDP: Singapore against tide of universal healthcare
As the world moves towards universal healthcare, Singapore is being left behind. At the 66th World Health Assembly which is currently taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have called for governments to adopt universal health care policies.
Health Minister Gan Kim Yong is reported to in attendance at the Assembly. The PAP Government has till now refused to make healthcare in Singapore universal, that is, available to all regardless of financial status.
At the opening of the Assembly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “We must keep moving towards universal health coverage, so all people can have access to the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.”
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan reiterated that “everyone, irrespective of their ability to pay, should have access to the quality health care they need, without risking financial ruin.”
Dr Chan praised the commitment of a growing number of countries which have shifted towards universal coverage for demonstrating “strong emphasis on equity and social justice”.
Advanced economies all have universal health coverage for the citizens. Even the United States, one of the last holdouts, recently adopted the Affordable Healthcare Act under President Barack Obama which guarantees all Americans due healthcare.
Singapore thus remains one of the few countries in the world which refuses its people universal healthcare.
Singaporeans are expected to pay for the main bulk of our medical expenses when we fall ill. This is done through our Medisave accounts and out-of-pocket payments. The Government 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 face financial ruin when they meet with catastrophic or chronic illness. Medical expenses are one of the top three reasons why Singaporeans go into debt.
Others avoid seeking medical treatment because they cannot afford it. Take, for example, Mr Ivan Lim who was diagnosed with diabetes. Because he faced financial difficulties, he tried to save 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 be amputated.
The SDP has proposed doing away with the Medisave scheme and replacing it with a state-run National Health Investment Fund (NHIF) where the Government contributes the majority of the funds with Singaporeans co-paying a smaller portion.
Read also: Scrap Medisave and increase govt spending
Read also: The SDP healthcare plan made simple
Under this plan, a working Singaporean pays an average of $600 a year depending on the level of one’s income. This is a fraction 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) with the rest of the expenses paid by the NHIF. The 10% is waived for the elderly and poor who have no income.
This system ensures that all Singaporeans are provided proper healthcare without anyone being threatened with financial ruin if he/she falls ill.
In other words, the SDP National Healthcare Plan is universal.
As countries moves 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.)
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