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Hospice care affordable for most Singaporeans: Chee Hong Tat

SINGAPORE: The Health Ministry does not require Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) to cover hospice care as an expansion of benefits will result in higher premiums. Minister of State for Health, Chee Hong Tat said this in Parliament on Monday (May 9), adding that IPs, together with MediShield Life, are designed to cover large hospital bills.

In response to a question from MP for Jurong GRC Dr Tan Wu Meng, Mr Chee said that hospice care is covered under some riders such as Great Eastern’s Total Health Riders and AXA’s Home Care Riders. He added that hospice care is affordable for most Singaporeans, based on his ministry’s data, when combined with government subsidies, Medisave and charity dollars. He highlighted that eight in 10 inpatient hospice bills did not have any out-of-pocket cash payment, while nine in 10 home palliative care patients did not have to fork out cash either.

Dr Tan asked about patients who fall under the ‘sandwiched class’- who may not qualify for as many government subsidies as patients from low income households, but who still want to take advantage of benefits provided by their IPs, which they purchased while still healthy. He asked whether the MOS would agree that the present system “makes it somewhat unfortunate that these patients can access their Integrated Shield Plan benefits in a restructured hospital, but not should they choose to seek end-of-life care at an inpatient hospice?”

In response, Mr Chee said government subsidies for hospice care are extended up to the 67 th percentile. Apart from subsidies, he said charity dollars are also an important source of support for patients. He said the government works closely with voluntary welfare organisations and charities in this area. Mr Chee reiterated that there are riders available but importantly, MediShield Life is a new scheme that started in November last year.

He said, ”It is important for us to focus the scheme on the original intent which it was set out to do, which is to cover large hospital bills. This is something we can review on an ongoing basis, to ensure MediShield Life is able to meet the needs of Singaporeans”.

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