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Extensive powers for administrators with MediShield Life Scheme Bill

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Singaporeans and permanent residents are one step closer to having a universal health coverage.

Singapore

SINGAPOREANS and permanent residents are one step closer to having a universal health coverage. The MediShield Life Scheme Bill, which makes provision for the scheme's implementation and administration, was tabled in parliament on Monday

To make it easier for the national insurance administrator to check the eligibility of individuals for MediShield Life premium subsidies, authorised personnel administering the scheme will be allowed to access financial and medical information in government and administrative databases. These would include basic information registered with the government, such as residential addresses, the annual value of residences, as well as financial data such as income.

Those who choose not to allow access to their financial data will have to apply manually to be assessed for premium subsidies.

To help Singaporeans with their MediShield Life premiums, the government is spending almost S$4 billion over the next five years in premium subsidies and other forms of support. The relevant administrators will also be able to access medical records to identify those with serious pre-existing medical conditions.

Those who fall in this category will have to pay an additional 30 per cent in premiums per year for 10 years to reflect their higher risks, after which they will pay the same amount as those in their age group. Individuals who choose not to allow access to their medical information will have to pay the additional premiums.

Anyone who access, use or disclose such information without authorisation faces a fine of up to S$5,000 and 12 months' jail.

Recovery of premiums from defaulters is also another key feature of the Bill. It provides powers adapted from existing income tax legislation to impose penalties on outstanding premiums of up to 17 per cent, including any interest on late premiums.

The government can also recover unpaid premiums through employers or banks, as those who can afford to pay but default would increase the load of other policyholders.

Singaporeans and permanent residents living overseas for long periods will also have to pay premiums.

A MediShield Life Council, which will have the powers to review and make recommendations to the Health Minister on related issues and to review the scheme's administration, will be set up. Its details will be announced later this year.

Under the Bill, provision of false or misleading information or omission of material information constitutes an offence. The maximum punishment is S$5,000 fine and 12 months in jail. Offenders will also be required to pay penalties pegged to the amount of premiums undercharged or benefits or claims overpaid. Those who obstruct investigators conducting investigations into offences under the Bill can be fined a maximum of S$20,000 and jailed 12 months.

The Bill will be tabled for the second reading at the next available sitting of Parliament.

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