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27 Jul 2019

27th Jul 2019

Mr Chee Hong Tat and Mr Chong Kee Hiong, Members of Parliament (MPs) for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC

Mr Gerard Ee, Chairman, Agency for Integrated Care (AIC)

Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning,

1   It gives me great pleasure to be here at the CHAS Carnival. I hope you will enjoy the programme lined up for you this morning, and learn more about the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).

How CHAS has Benefitted Singaporeans

2   A strong primary care system is key to an effective healthcare system. Our regular family doctors and dentists are our first line of care when we fall ill, and provide continued care to help us manage our health conditions well. Through advice, health checks and screening, and vaccinations, they also help us stay healthy.

3   Primary care is not just about polyclinics. To support Singaporeans in primary care, the Ministry of Health (MOH) introduced CHAS in 2012 to provide Singaporeans with subsidised primary care at private general practitioner (GP) and dental clinics near their homes. There are now over 1,000 GP and 700 dental CHAS clinics island-wide.

4   Many Singaporeans have benefitted from CHAS. There are currently about 1.2 million CHAS cardholders, including our Pioneers, a long way from the 34,000 cardholders when the scheme started in 2012. Last year, we gave out $152 million of subsidies through CHAS.

5   We will expand and enhance CHAS in three ways to provide even better support to Singaporeans.

  • First, we will be introducing a new CHAS tier – CHAS Green.
  • Second, we will make enhancements to the existing CHAS Orange and CHAS Blue benefits.
  • Third, we will have special CHAS benefits for Merdeka Generation seniors.

Let me elaborate.


Introduction of CHAS Green

6   First, the introduction of CHAS Green. We want to help more Singaporeans benefit from CHAS. Earlier this year, we announced the introduction of the new CHAS Green tier from November 2019. With this, all Singaporeans with chronic conditions can benefit from CHAS regardless of their income, even if they do not qualify for CHAS Blue or CHAS Orange. CHAS Green will provide up to $160 in annual subsidies for selected chronic conditions.

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The introduction of CHAS Green is a major shift towards universal subsidies for chronic conditions under GP care. As our population ages, more Singaporeans will require support to manage their chronic conditions, with many requiring continued treatments. Much of chronic disease management should take place in the community. Our private GPs, which serve 80 percent of the primary care needs of Singaporeans, are our key partners in this.

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Mdm Lim Poh Choo, who did not previously qualify for CHAS, is looking forward to receiving the upcoming CHAS Green subsidies. Diagnosed with diabetes 10 years ago, Mdm Lim had been visiting a polyclinic for her regular check-ups and medication, but switched to visiting Braddell Family Clinic a few years ago as it was more conveniently located near her home. She is glad that CHAS now covers everyone. As a new CHAS cardholder, she can soon enjoy government subsidies for her GP visits.

Enhancements to CHAS Orange and Blue

9   Second, enhancements to CHAS Orange and Blue. Current CHAS cardholders can also look forward to enhanced CHAS subsidies from November, to better support them in managing their health conditions at the GPs. We will extend subsidies for common illnesses such as coughs and colds to CHAS Orange cardholders. We will also increase the annual subsidy limit for complex chronic conditions for both CHAS Blue and Orange cardholders.

10   
Mr Sim Seo Shing, a current CHAS Orange cardholder, will be one of the beneficiaries. While Mr Sim and his wife are both working, they are concerned about their cost of living as they have three children who are still studying or serving national service. In 2013, Mr Sim was diagnosed with diabetes and high cholesterol, and has since been managing his conditions with his family doctor, Dr Eugene Ng at Hope Family Clinic and Surgery. Through close follow-ups with Dr Ng and a healthier lifestyle, Mr Sim improved his blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The CHAS enhancements will benefit Mr Sim.

Special CHAS Benefits for Merdeka Generation Seniors

11   Third, special CHAS benefits for our Merdeka Generation seniors. In addition to those who will enjoy enhanced CHAS subsidies, our Merdeka Generation seniors will receive special subsidies at CHAS GP and dental clinics from November. This will give them better support for their healthcare needs in their silver years.

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With these enhancements, we expect to pay out more than $200 million a year in CHAS subsidies altogether, including for our Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation seniors.

Simplified CHAS Application Process for Greater Convenience

13   With many more Singaporeans becoming eligible for CHAS, we are also working to make the application process easier and more convenient. Previously, all family members needed to sign and acknowledge the application form, which could sometimes be cumbersome. We have recently simplified the CHAS application process for households, so that only one member is required to fill in and sign the form on behalf of his or her family.

14   
From September this year, Singaporeans will be able to complete and submit the CHAS application entirely online, by logging in through their SingPass. The online application should significantly reduce the time and effort required to apply for CHAS. I hope that more families will find it easier to apply for and benefit from CHAS.

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I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our partnering CHAS GP and dental clinics for their support over the years, and for working with us to make these improvements possible for Singaporeans.

More to Benefit from Revised Income Criteria for Healthcare Subsidy Schemes

16   Even as CHAS is being expanded and enhanced, MOH continually reviews the eligibility and coverage of our various schemes to ensure that care remains affordable to Singaporeans.

17   
Earlier this year, Senior Minister of State for Health Edwin Tong had mentioned in Parliament that MOH was reviewing the income criteria used to determine means-tested subsidy levels for healthcare subsidy schemes. The review has now been completed. MOH will be revising the various income eligibility criteria for schemes and services so that more Singaporeans will benefit from our healthcare subsidies.

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No action is needed on the part of patients and beneficiaries when they use the relevant services or apply for the subsidies. The various service providers and scheme administrators will automatically extend the corresponding subsidies to those who are eligible.

19   
Take the example of CHAS. Currently, to qualify for a CHAS Blue card, a household should have a monthly household income per person of $1,100 or lower. We will raise this to $1,200. For CHAS Orange, the ceiling will be raised from $1,800 to $2,000. Those with monthly PCHI above $2,000 will qualify for the CHAS Green tier. All existing CHAS cardholders who qualify for a higher tier under the new income criteria will be automatically issued a replacement card by October.

20   Besides CHAS, similar revisions will be made to other healthcare and long-term care subsidy schemes that use per-capita monthly household income criteria. Examples include subsidies for MediShield Life premiums, Specialist Outpatient Clinics (SOCs), intermediate and long-term care services, and the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund.

21   
The new criteria will take effect for all schemes by October this year. We expect that at least 365,000 Singapore Residents will benefit from higher subsidies across various schemes under the new income criteria.

Closing

22   Ladies and Gentlemen, over the last few years, MOH has enhanced many existing financing and subsidy schemes and introduced new ones. We introduced MediShield Life and soon CareShield Life, as well as Flexi-MediSave. We enhanced CHAS and Chronic Disease Management Programme coverage, and raised public SOC subsidies. And now we are making CHAS enhancements and revising the income criteria.

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All these are done for one objective – and that is to ensure that healthcare remains affordable for Singaporeans. And we will continue to do so.

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Finally, for those of you who are here today, I hope that you will find out more about CHAS at this carnival. For those intending to apply, there is no need to rush – you can take advantage of the more convenient online application when it is ready in September, which is more than enough time for you to enjoy the enhanced benefits from November.

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Thank you, and I wish you all a great day ahead at the CHAS Carnival!

 




Category: Speeches