Experts offer tips to improve Singapore's health care

Experts offer tips to improve Singapore's health care
Sunday, Feb 24, 2013
The Straits Times
By Melissa Pang, Andrea Ong

SINGAPORE - From increasing the use of the 3Ms to fund a greater portion of patient bills, to expanding the use of Medisave to cover a wider variety of health screenings, health- care experts last night offered various suggestions on how to improve Singapore's health-care system.

Four experts spoke at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Tembusu Forum. The subject of discussion was "Health-care policy and values in Singapore, now and in the future".

The forum, the seventh in a series that is held twice every semester, was moderated by the Tembusu College rector, Professor Tommy Koh.

The panel of speakers comprised Dr Lam Pin Min, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health; Associate Professor Phua Kai Hong of the NUS Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy; health policy commentator Jeremy Lim; and Associate Professor Paul Ananth Tambyah, an infectious disease specialist.

Each of them took turns to dissect the fundamentals of Singapore's health-care financing system, including its strengths and weaknesses, and offered ways to improve a system that most felt still had relevance.

Prof Phua said that currently, the 3Ms - Medisave, MediShield, and Medifund - help to fund only about 15 per cent of the total health-care expenditure, and the Government can afford to be more generous with its usage.

According to Prof Phua, the amount of Medisave savings is now equivalent to about 10 years' worth of the annual health budget. "So I don't understand why we are over-saving so much, and quite proud of it," he said.

Responding to a question from the audience on the importance of prevention of diseases, Dr Lam said that besides encouraging Singaporeans to lead a healthy lifestyle, more can be done to urge them to go for regular health screenings. He suggested the Government allow the use of Medisave for such screenings.

Prof Tambyah, however, called for the abolishing of the 3M framework, suggesting instead a single-payer insurance scheme. Any increase in premium caused by such a system would still be less than the current system, he said.

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