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


Anonymous said...

I totally disagree with u
If u have been admitted to a hospital in Singapore, u will realise that there is a shortage of bed in Singapore hospitals.

We need to free up beds for elective operations by relocating them to our neighbouring countries where it is cheaper and better.

U are just afraid your earnings will drop with Malaysia sharing the shrinking pie. We dont need greedy drs like u!

nofearSingapore said...

Hi anon 9.30
It seems that healthcare is not the only minitry failing us.
The Minitry of Education has also failed us if Singaporeans cannot have a intelligent discourse without making Ad Hominen attacks.
Singaporeans do not speak up enough - unless they do so behind anonymous cover. We are a looong way from being a mature society!

Anonymous said...

i think the most important thing is now who can afford to provide the cheapest but acceptable health care who will take the money.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dr Huang,

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.

I think you've misinterpreted the use of Medisave for M'sian hospitals. The main objective is to create more options for S'poreans, rather than curing a flaw in our healthcare system.

Secondly, it is likely this will benefit PRs from Malaysia, as they are more familiar with the healthcare over there.

I don't really think the govt is saying the poorer ones shld go to M'sia for their treatment...there are still certain barriers like distance, location (not all M'ian hospitals can use Medisave), and most imptly, quality.

Anonymous said...

I feel that the MOH has been flat footed, as like so many other public services. The medisave is linked to treatment, if there wasnt an enforced savings, patients will find the most economic solutions, whether treating themselves up north or even Thailand. I do share with you the implications of such a move, although the devil are in the details. Right now I believe it is only applicable to restricted hospitals. But the bigger picture is the direction that the MOH will take. Major medical procedures here are good, but it costs an arm and leg. Their ambition to be a medical hub is still there but unfortunately the ability to pay for it is questionable.

For longer term convalacense care, it may be better to go elsewhere. For all good intentions, the scheme is a good start. But knowing those policy makers, it will be full of regulations.

nofearSingapore said...

For the reason of giving Singaporeans more choice, would…
1. Sg’s Minister in charge of housing allow our cpf to be used for houses in Malaysia?
2. Sg’s Minister in charge of education allow Edusave to be used in schools in Malaysia?
3. Sg’s Minister in charge of tourism encourage Singaporeans to patronize Malaysian tourist spots?
Food for thought.

Anonymous said...

For the reason of giving Singaporeans more choice, would…

Yes, this is just an additional option for S'poreans. It's like having variants of a same product e.g. notebook PCs of the same series are slightly different from one another, so that S'poreans can choose. Actually I doubt many will actually opt for surgeries or treatment in M'sia.

1. Sg’s Minister in charge of housing allow our cpf to be used for houses in Malaysia?

These examples are off the point. But I'll still response. Using CPF to purchase M'sian houses? Well, CPF is the people's money after all, so why not?

2. Sg’s Minister in charge of education allow Edusave to be used in schools in Malaysia?

I don't think that would be possible, as the quality of their education remains much to be desired.

3. Sg’s Minister in charge of tourism encourage Singaporeans to patronize Malaysian tourist spots?

Lol. Don't think this will ever happen, unless to encourage cultural exchanges?

Anonymous said...

its like if singaporean can get even cheaper health care in malaysia, then they can save more of their medisave for another illness.

if health care in singapore are very expensive, they use up all their medisave for the first illness, (maybe first illness already not enough to pay), then 2nd illness surely no more money.

and if their family all also have no money, then this will become social problem for govt. who to foot the bill.

then govt may need to throw in more and more money to solve this social problem. i think govt will not want to throw in.

if people can use own money to solve own problem thats the best.

lesser problem for govt as well.

hmm, some country taxes very high but their govt can help them foot the bills.

actually singapore taxes also not very low. if you have gst, erp, tv radio fee....etc.

hope change will be in singapore soon.

thesun said...

I understand the argument made but is this a glass half empty or half full? From an argument of choice, this is a positive step towards options on how we want to spend our own Medisave money and it should not be restricted to geography.

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Anonymous said...

It will be interesting when the policy details are out. The main difference between Johor and Singapore? Main factors which Minister did highlight was the cost of land, cost of manpower, cost of medicine etc.. all these are cheaper in Malaysia. All these are beyond Health Ministry. Will we ever be able to lower cost of land, manpower and medicine?
this option has been in effect in Hongkong, or similar scheme. To allow hongkongers to chose to retire in Guangzhou, yet able to receive their handouts. the money goes a longer way, last longer.
Maybe with this move, we will see more Malaysians PR converting to Singapore citizenship? other than addressing the main issue of health cost, there are other factors at play?

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Anonymous said...

What happen to our pledge ....to build a society base on justice and equality. S'porean should come first whether its poor or rich.....why in the first place I'm a citizen of S'pore and do not benefit on the system.

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