Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Singaporeans' Medisave Money for Malaysian hospitals

Hi Friends,

Gong Xi Fa Cai!

May we not just have material blessings but also good health so that we can live meaningful lives amongst our kinfolks, friends and community.

My largely unedited letter has been published in the Straits Times Forum today.

I am disturbed that MOH –which had backed down earlier about setting up Old Folks’ Homes in Malaysia after an uproar, has now introduced it again, albeit in a different skin.

Healthcare initiatives- Old Folks’ Homes and now this
The Old Folks’ Home initiative and now the Medisave for Malaysia move is an admission that certain Singaporeans have been priced out of their own homeland.

To some,it seems a logical solution,” If Singaporeans cannot afford to live their remaining days in Singapore- why not just let them do it in Malaysia”. Now it is –“ If Singaporeans cannot afford to have quality healthcare on our own shores- maybe Malaysia boleh (can) ( with a little help from Medisave)”

But others will ask questions like "Why is it that the MOH feels that in our multi-strata healthcare system, which range from C class beds in public hospitals to the super-duper suites in our private hospitals (that even regional royalties feel comfortable in), cannot meet the needs of Singaporeans? Shouldn’t we try to meet the demands and aspirations of Singaporeans within our system instead of sending them up north? Did we not pay tax so that our system can help us when we are sick and old?

MOH should try harder to improve the system so that Singaporeans feel they get more “bang for their dollars" . I do not recall all major stakeholders being consulted about this.

Impact for tourism industry

What about our national plan to make Singapore a regional centre of excellence for Medical Tourism? Each medical tourist comes typically with at least 2-3 family members. This is a huge spin-off with a multiplying effect for hotels, F&B and shopping centres. In one stroke, the MOH has just leaked out a family secret ( and I am not agreeing to this) that Malaysian hospitals are cheap and just as good!

Malaysia has just got a very un-expected Lunar Near Year Hong Bao from MOH! No amount of publicity nor advertisements by Malaysia’s tourism board can compare with such an ringing endorsement from none other than Malaysia’s erstwhile competitor.

Read this space- there will soon be insurance policies which are priced below our present premiums, but with a catch- “Co-payment if treated in Singapore hospitals, but, full reimbursements if treated in Malaysia”

I guess this populist move will win the minister many votes for the coming elections. Why worry about our healthcare system?


Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan

Will it come back to haunt us later? (16 Feb 2010 ST Forum)

I REFER to last Thursday's report, 'Medisave can be used in 12 Malaysian hospitals'. The move by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to allow Medisave deduction for hospitalisation in Malaysian hospitals is, in my view, like scoring an own goal in a soccer match.

To say the least, it sends a confusing signal. It is as though MOH is admitting that it has failed in its mission to cater to all Singaporeans in our own often-lauded health-care system.

Is the claim that even the poorest Singaporean will be looked after in our health-care facilities - with its subsidies and special funding such as Medifund - just an empty boast now?

MOH is in fact using national resources - Medisave infrastructure - to build up a competitor's capabilities. Is MOH still serious about helping Singapore become a medical tourism centre of excellence?

This populist measure may seem to placate short-term demands - only to come back to haunt us later when our own health-care and tourism industries are hollowed out in the medium to long term.

By then, any new measure will be futile and like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Dr Huang Shoou Chyuan