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Parliament: MediShield Life Scheme Bill tabled

Monday, January 19, 2015 - 15:18
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Singaporeans are one step closer to access to universal health coverage as Parliament on Monday tabled the MediShield Life Scheme Bill, which provides for its implementation and administration.

SINGAPOREANS are one step closer to access to universal health coverage as Parliament on Monday tabled the MediShield Life Scheme Bill, which provides for its implementation and administration.

The Bill sets out the coverage and benefits, establishment of the MediShield Life Council, access to information, recovery of premiums, and offences and penalties.

In terms of coverage and benefits, the Bill allows deduction of Medisave monies for premium payments. For those below the age of 21, the premiums will be paid by their parents or legal guardians, if they do not have sufficient Medisave fund.

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.

The Bill also lays the legislative framework for authorised personnel administering the scheme to access financial and medical information in government and administrative databases so as to facilitate eligibility checks for MediShield Life premium subsidies.

This would include basic information registered with the government, including residential addresses, the annual value of residences, as well as financial data such as income.

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

Access to the information will also facilitate the checks required to identify those with serious pre-existing medical conditions so as to extend universal coverage to them.

Those with pre-existing conditions will have to pay an additional 30 per cent in premiums for 10 years to reflect their higher risks. After the 10 years, 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 accesses, uses or discloses such information without authorisation may face a fine of up to S$5,000 and 12 months' imprisonment.

The Bill also sets out the recovery of premiums from defaulters by providing 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.

There is also provision for the government to appoint agents such as employers or banks, to make payment for outstanding premiums from any amount they hold for defaulters.

Defaulters can also be sued in recovering outstanding premiums.

Under the Bill, provision of false or misleading information or omission of material information is 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 without reasonable excuse will be fined a maximum of S$20,000 and jailed 12 months.

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

The MediShield Life Scheme, which aims to provide better lifelong protection for all Singaporeans against large hospital bills, will replace the existing MediShield Scheme by the end of the year.

The scheme was announced at the National Day Rally in 2013.

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