By Dawn Tay
HEALTH-CARE subsidies for permanent residents (PRs) are set to be cut further, in line with the Government's bid to boost the distinction between citizens and foreigners here.
Currently, PRs get subsidies for class B2 and C wards in public hospitals and specialist outpatient clinics that are 10 percentage points lower than those given to citizens.
The Health Ministry will widen the difference to 20 percentage points by 2012, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday after donating blood at the Health Sciences Authority.
This will be carried out in two stages, in January and July next year, to make it easier for PRs to adjust to the cuts.
From July next year, a PR will have his bill for a class C ward subsidised by up to 60 per cent, compared with up to 80 per cent for citizens.
Subsidies for PRs in nursing homes and community hospitals will also be cut, with the first 5-percentage-point reduction to take effect in July next year, and the second in January 2012.
In December 2006, the Government had announced subsidy cuts for PRs, while foreigners had to pay medical bills in full at public hospitals.
Mr Khaw called the latest move a "meaningful refinement" of current policy that would save the Government about $7 million a year. The money can instead be used to subsidise citizens.
However, he said the Government will ensure that health care remains affordable for PRs.
About 6 per cent of all subsidised patients are PRs, he said.
Latest official statistics show that 533,200 PRs live here.
The move comes on top of recent government measures to further distinguish between PRs and citizens.
On Wednesday, the Housing Board said that it is considering whether to introduce a separate ethnic quota for PRs to prevent them from forming enclaves in public housing estates.
And last month, the Education Ministry announced that school fees for the children of PRs will be raised next year.
Some PRs, like Ms Susan Lee from Malaysia, were disturbed by the subsidy cuts.
Said the 29-year-old civil servant: "After all, we pay taxes, just as citizens do. Aren't we allowed to enjoy similar benefits?
And health care is something basic and important."
Other PRs - like lawyer Judy Yeo, 46, from Malaysia - said they understood the Government's need to take care of its citizens first. The cuts would not affect them much as they frequent private hospitals and are covered by company health insurance.
However, Mrs Yeo said: "Unless there is really a need for the cuts, it should not be done for the purpose of differentiation or to make citizens happy."
Yesterday, Mr Khaw also revealed his plan to set a 10-year roadmap for the development of Singapore's health-care system during next month's Budget session.
A possible change is an increase in Central Provident Fund Medisave contributions, to ensure that Singaporeans have enough money for longterm care as the population ages.
The current rate of 6.5 to 9 per cent is for acute hospitalisation and may not cover big medical bills and long-term care, said Mr Khaw.
In the future, lower-middle and middle-income patients may be allowed to tap Medifund for expensive drugs. Medifund is normally reserved for needy Singaporeans to help them pay medical bills.
Instead of subsidising these drugs, the Health Ministry is exploring this option for such Singaporeans, whose monthly salary may easily be wiped out if they require expensive drugs such as those used in cancer treatment, Mr Khaw said.
From: The Cynic
Subject: Re: PR's health subsidies to be cut
This is an indication of an approaching general election. The health-
care subsidy reduction for PRs comes in the heels of a statement from
a very senior man who said recently that the number of foreign workers
will be reduced in the coming years. At last the PAP hierarchy has
finally woken up to the widespread resentment among locals against
transplanted parasites. In the recent past, some overly paid smart
alecks, in trying to defend their foreign import policy, gave
ridiculous justification, eg foreign mei meis created jobs for locals,
PRs cannot buy HDB flats.
There will be soon other measures wooing the electorate to vote for
the PAP. Let's wait and see.