Assoc Prof Daniel Goh Pei Siong: Mdm Chair, primary healthcare at general practitioner clinics should be seen as a form of preventive healthcare to arrest the development of illnesses before they escalate to the needs for costly hospitalisation. Costly, that is, to the public purse and the public, given universal hospitalisation insurance or MediShield Life.
The monthly household income per member capped to qualify for Community Health Assist Scheme or CHAS subsidies should be raised from $1,800 to the prevailing median monthly income from work for an individual which stand at $3,900 in 2015. This is so that retirees who live with their working children, who are themselves parents, are not excluded. This would also provide some relief for the children of the retirees, who belong to the sandwiched middle-income group. Another benefit is that this would provide support for and promote multi-generational households, where the elderly would not be disincentivised to live with the children and grandchildren.
Dr Lam Pin Min: Thank you. MOH remains committed to reinforcing the core pillars of a quality healthcare system for our population. This encompasses taking a closer look at the fundamentals of our healthcare system, including developing better preventive health services for our young and strengthening primary care.
A good primary care system can help to reduce costly interventions in the hospital setting. To keep primary care affordable, CHAS and PG cardholders at the FMCs and CHAS clinics receive Government subsidies for their care. Dr Tan Wu Meng and Assoc Prof Daniel Goh commented on enhancing subsidies for primary care. Since 2012, we have significantly enhanced CHAS so that more Singaporeans can benefit. In 2013, we raised the income criterion from per capita monthly household income of $1,500 to $1,800. In 2014, the age floor of 40 years was also removed. These changes have helped more Singaporean households benefit from CHAS.
I thank Assoc Prof Goh for his suggestion to change the qualifying criteria for CHAS. Assoc Prof Goh suggested that we change the per capita household income criterion of $1,800 to an individual’s prevailing median monthly income of $3,900. The current CHAS income criterion of $1,800 ensures that lower to middle-income Singaporeans, or Singaporeans in about half of all resident households, can qualify. This means that a household of four, with the breadwinner earning $7,200, is eligible.
A household-based approach ensures that subsidies are equitably distributed to extend more benefits to individuals with more dependents. In determining our income criterion, we will need to strike a balance, bearing in mind the need to target subsidies at those who need it most, and Government budget availability. We will review CHAS regularly, and will enhance the scheme where needed to ensure that care remains affordable.