The bulk of benefits under the Merdeka Generation Package will be rolled out in two tranches, in July and November this year, Senior Minister of State for Health Amy Khor announced yesterday.
From July, an estimated 500,000 Singaporeans who were born in the 1950s will get the first $200 top-up to their Medisave accounts. They will get this $200 top-up every year until 2023.
Additional MediShield Life premium subsidies will also take effect, starting from 5 per cent of their annual premiums and increasing to 10 per cent after they turn 75.
Although system changes to automatically apply the additional subsidies will be ready only towards the end of the year, the subsidies will be backdated to July 1, Dr Khor told Parliament during the debate on the Health Ministry’s budget.
Those whose policy renewal dates fall between July 1 and Oct 31 will first pay the full premiums, and get the extra subsidies as a refund.
The second tranche of benefits to kick in on Nov 1 includes more subsidies for outpatient care: An additional 25 per cent off subsidised bills at polyclinics and public specialist outpatient clinics.
Help for the Merdeka Generation was among a series of measures announced to make healthcare more affordable for Singaporeans.
Other steps include allowing all citizens with chronic illnesses to tap the Community Health Assist Scheme (Chas) for subsidies from Nov 1. A new Chas Green tier will be introduced to enable better-off Singaporeans to do this.
Meanwhile, all Secondary 1 girls in national schools will be offered free vaccination from next month to protect them against cervical cancer.
Addressing MPs before the new measures were outlined yesterday, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong noted healthcare spending almost doubled from $11 billion in 2010 to $21 billion in 2016. He cautioned: “It is unsustainable for us to continue increasing our national healthcare expenditure at this current rate.”
He proposed healthier lifestyles and changing the way care was delivered to stem the rising bills.
Meanwhile, Merdeka Generation seniors can also get a $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver cards from July. They have until the end of 2020 to redeem the credits, which do not expire.
Broad details of the Merdeka package were announced by Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his address on the Budget, which set aside $6.1 billion that eligible seniors will tap over a lifetime.
Merdeka Generation cardholders will also get subsidies at Chas general practitioner and dental clinics from Nov 1 of up to $23.50 a visit for common illnesses, up to $520 a year for complex conditions, and between $16 and $261.50 per dental procedure. Eligible seniors will get annual health screenings under the Screen for Life scheme at just $2.
The last benefit to kick in will be when long-term care insurance scheme CareShield Life is available for existing cohorts in 2021. An additional $1,500 incentive will be extended to Merdeka Generation seniors who sign up, on top of the $2,500 previously announced.
The total incentive of $4,000, which will be available only until 2023, will offset their annual premiums for 10 years, Dr Khor noted.
By next month, Merdeka Generation members will get letters on the package, added Dr Khor, who co-chairs a task force with Senior Minister of State Sim Ann that seeks to ensure seniors know about the package and how they can tap it.