a community of singaporeans

Healthcare costs increase the most, but MediFund payouts declining?

Posted by theonlinecitizen on December 28, 2007

By Leong Sze Hian

I refer to the article “Nov inflation hits 4.2%, 25-year high” (ST, Dec 25), and the news report “Singapore‘s Nov consumer prices up 4.2% year-on-year” (CNA, Dec 24).

Healthcare registered the highest increase of 6.2 per cent year-on-year, out of all items of expenditure. Transport and Communication was the second highest at 5.6 per cent, and All Items rose 4.2 per cent.

The consumer price index – a non-core measure of costs for goods and services – rose 4.2 percent from a year earlier after rising 3.6 percent in October.

Since Healthcare inflation has gone up the most, has help for the poor by way of MediFund gone up too?

It is interesting to read what Seah Chiang Nee said in his article “Public cry foul over recent policies – Insight: Down South” (The Star, Malaysian newspaper), Dec 22).

His article said:

“Middle class Singaporeans are giving the government the thumbs down despite Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s prediction of a golden era in the coming years.

The current inflation, the worst in 12 years, is partly imported but is blamed on the government because it has been increasing public fees, ranging from healthcare to stamps.”

I also refer to the article “Record 301,000 needy patients get help from Medifund” (ST, Dec 4).

The Medifund payout per patient was $ 132 and $ 136, for 2006 and 2005 respectively.

The average payout per patient in 2001 was $ 174.

As medical cost inflation has been one of the highest among all items of household expenditure, why is it that the average payout per patient has declined by 3 per cent from 2005 to 2006, and by 24 per cent from 2001 to 2006 ?

To illustrate the extent of medical cost inflation, average hospital bills went up by 10 to 30 per cent from 2005 to last year, with the highly subsidised Class C wards chalking up the highest percentage increase.

Since the economy has been very good over the last year, and unemployment is at a record low, with record jobs creation, why is it that the number of needy patients who applied for Medifund is at a record high ?

Why has the rejection rate for Medifund applicants increased 30-fold last year to 6,456, compared to only 210 rejections in 2005 ?

Has the criteria for Medifund been revised over the years to account for rising medical costs and inflation ?

In my volunteer work doing financial counseling for needy Singaporeans, whenever I ask a medical social worker what is the criteria to qualify for Medifund, the answer I get is always, “it is confidential”.

I am also unable to find any information on the web sites of any government agency, or voluntary welfare organisation.

Why is the Medifund criteria apparently a secret ?

What are the components that go into the means score used by hospitals in the means testing process for Medifund applications ?

After watching a recent medical charity show on television, which had elderly Singaporeans pleading for donations saying that they have no money for medical
fees and medicine, my friend’s sister, a 50 plus housewife, jumped from the 10th floor of her HDB flat, the following day.

In studies on aging in Singapore, the greatest area of concern expressed by Singaporeans was medical costs.

In another Straits Times article “Hospice pulls out of MediFund : It cites conflicts with its philosophy on needy patients” (ST, Dec 27), it was reported that “it did not want dying patients and their families to be stressed by exhausting their savings, and having to prove it. ‘Some of our patients are so ill, they pass away within a few days of admission, and it is distressing enough for families to deal with this, without the added burden of these investigations’”.

The article also said, “Last year, a record $ 39.6 million from Medifund was given to 20,000 to 30,000 patients who made a record 301,126 successful applications”. I believe this is the first time that the number of MediFund patients has been reported in the media.

I would like to ask what was the number of patients approved and rejected under MediFund for 2001, 2005 and 2006 ?

Is the 6,456 MediFund rejections in 2006 the number of applications rejected, or the number of patients rejected? If it is patients, does it mean that the rejection rate was about 26 per cent (6,456 divided by 25,000 patients)?

In view of all of the above, I would like to suggest that Medifund criteria be made available to the public, so that needy Singaporeans do not become overly worried or depressed about medical costs.



6 Responses to “Healthcare costs increase the most, but MediFund payouts declining?”

  1. SS Lee said

    Well done Mr. Leong.. I admire your efforts in highlighting issues of interests and your volunteer work. Happy New Year to you !
    “Record 301,000 needy patients get help from Medifund” (ST, Dec 4).
    Last year, a record $ 39.6 million from Medifund was given to 20,000 to 30,000 patients who made a record 301,126 successful applications”.
    Which is which? I am confused.
    I agree that they must come clean with absolute transparency on who can get Medifund support.

  2. Robert HO said

    1. Almost EVERY flattering Fact or Statistic or Number favourable to LKY LHL PAP is massaged or even falsified to give the false impression that the govt is such a success, that every conceivable problem has been solved, that Singapore is indeed a paradise. For example, GDP numbers have long been falsified — indeed, GDP depends mostly on what you choose to include. For example, about 2 weeks ago, the World Bank decided to choose slightly different criteria to China’s GDP and came up with the astonishing figure that China’s GDP was actually a whopping 40% LESS than reported over the years and decades! As I wrote in my blog, GDP is a jabberwocky, not some precise measurement. Which is why LKY LHL PAP peg their Performance Bonus of millions to the GDP jabberwocky. So it can always be manipulated as high as they want.

    2. The corollary to the above is that UNflattering and UNfavourable Facts, Statistics and Numbers are secret and never reported or revealed, and our Good Times Media [GTM] never ask or probe. When they do know, they also keep these Facts, Statistics and Number out of the public’s eyeballs or reach, so that geniuses like Mr LEONG cannot draw the Truth and proper Conclusions out of them, or make it so difficult that most except the few Mr LEONGs in TOC and other blogs can make sense or horror out of it. When even Tharman was charged and fined — for just revealing flash estimates of the GDP [note how important the GDP number is to LKY LHL PAP!] slightly earlier than allowed, it shows how obsessed the govt is with looking good, how intent and determined to act and policise purely for cosmetic reasons only, and how resolutely they guard every Fact, Statistic and Number. I wrote in my blog “Every time LKY looks good, the Truth doesn’t.” Never truer.

    3. In the early childhood of the Internet and all its promise and wonder of Information and Communication, all these retrograde, regressive and rearguard war against Information and Communication fails. LKY LHL PAP loses. Already. Even more obviously and so in the coming years. LKY’s “Golden Era” will indeed happen, except not as he things — as usual, he thinks wrong, proving yet again poverty in thought though billionaire in dollars. To paraphrase my blog, LKY LHL PAP can afford every luxury, except the luxury of Principles. Pragmatism is not a practice or ideology. It is a total ABSENCE OF. Absence of Principles, Absence of Honesty, Absence of All the Values that make for Honourable Public Life, that Defines Honour. Since I began my Internettings and blogs, LKY LHL PAP have stopped calling themselves ‘junzi’. Yet another Fact that has been buried together with all the unsavourable, unfavourable Facts, Statistics and Numbers of the LIEgime, whose central core is LIEs. A LIEgime whose mantra is that Looking Good is Govt itself.

  3. vic said

    “After watching a recent medical charity show on television, which had elderly Singaporeans pleading for donations saying that they have no money for medical fees and medicine, my friend’s sister, a 50 plus housewife, jumped from the 10th floor of her HDB flat, the following day.”
    no offense, but i don’t see the link between how someone can jump after watching a tv show unless they were already depressed and how that has any impact on your article. using your friend’s sister instead of a name really doesn’t cut it in journalism. it would have far more impact merely just mentioning how elderly singaporeans need to plea for donations. while i applaud you for writing up on something that is very close to your heart and an article that is in general quite well written and researched, i cannot help but feel that a great disservice has been done by that line which just reminds one of the rumour mongering that people do in the market.

  4. Daniel said

    “Last year, a record $ 39.6 million from Medifund was given to 20,000 to 30,000 patients who made a record 301,126 successful applications”

    From among this millions of dollars, does this millions includes administrative and operational costs ? Remember NKF ? Where each majority of these money end up in operational cost and only ten cent used actually for charity for every dollar donated ?

    Though the sentence say millions are given to help the patient, we know very well government’s words have to be taken with grain of salt as this government is actually running Singapore Incorporated. Money is the objective not the nation judging from what we have seen.

    It really shameful that the public has to scrutinise the government instead of government self-regulated itself. Uniquely Singapore.

  5. family man said

    I dread the rise of means testing. All well and hunky dory now, but watch out for the future – GST now 7%, new ERP gates coming up, means testing will slowly become a monster that will haunt all of us.

  6. mun said

    hi. i writing as healthcare worker. MF criteria is confidential but enuf 2 say it does make sure tt ppl who fit description exist n if nt 4 MF they wun spend on medical.

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