Thursday, September 29, 2005

Great policy change and political move by the govt.

From Today online:
26 Sept 2005

Govt may end foreign workers' medical subsidy

Duty of employers to care for staff: MOH

Tan Hui Leng

THE Ministry of Health is "seriously reviewing" whether to terminate medical subsidies for foreign workers holding work permits and employment passes in Singapore, Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said yesterday.

"When we subsidise them, we are actually subsidising the employers," said Mr Khaw at a dialogue session with residents at the Kaki Bukit Community Centre.

"As workers, this is really part and parcel of their employment medical benefits and employers should be subsidising them."

The MOH is planning to consult the Manpower Ministry on this subject.

Blue-collared workers holding work permits are of particular concern as many do not enjoy corporate medical benefits. There are 540,000 work permit and 80,000 employment pass holders in Singapore.

Foreign workers enjoy the same medical subsidies as citizens at government medical institutions, and this came into focus recently when Tan Tock Seng Hospital saw a sharp hike in foreign patients admitted with chicken pox.

Due to the infectious nature of the condition, their employers preferred to have them stay at the Communicable Disease Centre (CDC).

Mr Khaw said that he has since called a stop to the practice due to overcrowding at the hospital, particularly with the current dengue scourge.

He also put an end to the free treatment of chicken pox at the CDC, an age-old practice.

He said that the right thing to do was for dormitory managers to have one or two isolation rooms where those who contract chicken pox could stay.

Mr Khaw noted that Singaporeans with chicken pox were typically not hospitalised.

While changes may "take some time to organise", it would be easier to implement at the polyclinic level where up to five per cent of patients are foreign workers.

As consultation costs are not high, foreign workers may, in fact, find it more convenient to go to the GP where 80 per cent of primary healthcare is conducted, he reasoned.

But with higher costs if one has to be hospitalised, foreign workers may well need to get insurance in future.

"I think we should make all foreign workers … do a compulsory medical insurance," he said, adding that the premium would be low as most of them were young and healthy.

Would this increase business costs for their employers? Said Mr Khaw: "Maybe so, but you have to treat it as part and parcel of the cost of employment. The alternative is to hire Singaporeans."

After all, it is "not quite right" to pass this medical subsidy cost to taxpayers, he said, adding: "I can then use more of (the money) to help out needy Singaporeans who need it more."

This is great policy change by the govt.

Now with the review of the health policy, not only Singaporean taxpayers will soon no longer need to bear the burden of subsidising the healthcare of the foreign workers, foreign workers will also benefit from the more comprehensive healthcare coverage given by the compulsory medical insurance (Many of the workers get no medical assistance from their employers). The doctors in private practise and insurance companies might also be smiling at the thought of the extra customers they might get due to the new policy.

This is also a great political move by the govt.

Our Health Minister Mr Khaw Boon Wan showed his political acumen when some employers complained that the compulsory health insurances would raise their production cost.

Mr Khaw scored some political points by suggesting to these employers that if the scheme pushes costs too high, then companies might consider employing locals instead. The part where he said that it is "not quite right" to pass the medical subsidy cost to taxpayers, and that he can use the money "to help out needy Singaporeans who need it more" does not hurt either.

What a good move, Mr Khaw. ;)


At 7:21 AM, December 20, 2005, Anonymous Blue Cross of California said...

Great blog I hope we can work to build a better health care system. Health insurance is a major aspect to many.

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