“Our society has to be more gracious and more sympathetic not only autistics but to those with disabilities. Until then… I call it Hell on Earth.”
So says Aaron Kok regarding Singapore, as part of an online article. He is suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome, a branch of Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) where individuals have difficulties in social interactions, and suffer from restrictive and repetitive behavioral patterns. While Aaron spoke of his own problems, it is a voice out of many people with special needs growing old in Singapore. The world is more difficult, and especially in country that prioritizes staying economically superior, the rat race does not stop for those unable to keep up with it, mentally or physically.
In the recent years, however, steps have been taken to ease life for people and families with people with special needs. The implementation of Medisave (Ministry of Health, 2011), which is a state-wide national medical savings scheme, was bolstered in 2011 to allow Medisave usage for bipolar disorder and dementia, finally providing sufficient coverage to people with mental illnesses in the Chronic Disease Management Programme (Ministry of Health, 2010) (Ministry of Health, 2011). While Medisave has been praised to be a highly efficient health care policy, contributing highly to Singapore’s impeccable health care system, this paper aims to argue in favour of further improving this policy to include more of those who need it, especially the income-less who provide long term care.
Medisave for the Common Man.
The Medisave system is economically sound. The importance of saving for uncertain futures is something that is smart and effective. The extend life expectancy of Singaporeans have been on an upward trend, which means a larger retirement fund would be needed. As is the case with old age, the bulk of this retirement fund would be used to pay for expensive medical expenses, which are almost inevitable.
What Medisave helps direct Singaporeans to doing, albeit in a restrictive way, is to siphon medical expenses out of these savings, and keep it tight-lipped until the money is needed. It also dismisses the economic assumption that all people are rational beings, and forces rational action to take place. Restricting expenses to a specified daily amount, such as $300 for approved day surgeries, and $450 for daily hospital charges, helps Singaporeans ration the use of these reserves, preventing them from depleting these savings in a one-time medical emergency. (Central Provident Fund Board, 2012)
The many restrictions may seem intrusive, as it limits the take-home pay that citizens receive, and restricts economic freedom to assign savings to other areas, such as investments and large expenses such as housing. However, since health expenses are an inevitable expense, Medisave paves an even road for citizens in an aging population, easing health expense woes with minimal subsidies and reduces stress for Singaporeans in paying for one time hospitalizations. Singaporeans may receive less income in the short run, but the long-term benefits definitely outweigh the short term losses.
Since the implementation of the Medisave in 1984, it has reaped amazing results. According to the Ministry of Health’s 2010 Vital Statistics, Singaporean average life expectancy rate is 81.8 years old, which is the eighth longest expectancy rate in the world and third in Asia. This is done with minimal government subsidies - as compared to countries such as the US who spends 17% of GDP on healthcare, Singapore’s 4% boasts a higher efficiency rate (Ministry of Health, 2012) (taking into account that part of that 4% goes into administrative costs and the funding of hospitals), leading experts in the most powerful country in the world to look towards...