Social Studies

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Whether healthcare is affordable really depends on which group of people you are asking. The reality of the situation is that people who are less well-off or people who belong to the lower-income group will have a problem managing healthcare costs. If someone is hospitalised for an extended period of time,, they might be able to pay off the medical bills or barely make the payment. But this means that there will be no income coming in for the person who is hospitalised, and this person might also be the sole breadwinner.   In this country, healthcare is structured as with many other policies, is dependent on family ties, which is often viewed as the first and last line of support. But once you find yourself lacking in this network, by will or by circumstances, you are going to face a serious problem. I think this is where the government can step in to help those who are having difficulties to pay the bills. Some Singaporeans are worried over the rising medical costs and affordability. One particular issue that has surfaced is the suggestion to remove, or significantly reduce, the individual’s co-payment in MediShield. I am sure many would welcome this. But it will inevitably lead to over-consumption. We need a carefully considered, and calibrated approach. Remember that after government subsidies, we have our 3Ms – Medisave, MediShield and Medifund, to help defray our medical expenses. The 3Ms allow us to first look after ourselves and our families through savings (Medisave). The second line of defence is the pooling of risks to pay for larger bills (MediShield). And if all else fails, to tap on the government-funded  Medifund. This is a responsible yet compassionate approach. Sometimes, individuals end up with large medical bills despite their best efforts. This is when risk-pooling through MediShield and help from Medifund comes in. On the cost side, Government has always come in to help, and in a big way too.  Last year, MOH spent more than $3 billion on direct patient subsidies, as well as indirect subsidies to expand capacity and upgrade professional capabilities, support research and develop new services. Indeed, with the 3M system, most Singaporeans fork out little or no cash payment for hospitalisation. Moreover, since Medisave is our own money, available for use for oneself or one’s family, many would take care to ensure that it is spent wisely. This makes our healthcare financing model affordable and sustainable.  Everybody will have different opinions over the topic on affordability of healthcare. Richer people will find that there’s no problem at all but the middle and lower class people who are struggling to make ends meet might find it hard to pay the bills. Therefore , government can help by subsidizing heavily or lower the cost price of the medicines or treatments. Singapore has a non-modified universal healthcare system where the government ensures affordability of healthcare within the public health system, largely through a system of compulsory savings, subsidies and price controls. Singapore's system uses a combination of compulsory savings from payroll deductions to provide subsidies within a nationalized health insurance plan known as Medisave. Within Medisave, each citizen accumulates funds that are individually tracked, and such funds can be pooled within and across an entire extended family. The vast majority of Singapore citizens have substantial savings in this scheme. One of three levels of subsidy is chosen by the patient at the time of the healthcare episode. Approximately 70-80% of Singaporeans obtain their medical care within the public health system. Overall government spending on healthcare amounts to only 3-4% of annual GDP, partly because government expenditure on healthcare in the private system is extremely low.

Healthcare today in Singapore

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The Bowyer Block at the Singapore General Hospital now houses the SGH Museum which was officially opened in May 2005....
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