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THE Secretary-General of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has reiterated the labour movement's support for the recommended changes to the MediShield Life scheme announced this week.
Lim Swee Say said, however, that the labour movement was awaiting more details on how the changes would affect the premiums for this national insurance scheme that will give life-long coverage to Singapore residents.
He added that the revised version of MediShield Life would sit well with the Portable Medical Benefits Scheme (PMBS), which the labour movement has been pushing for.
Mr Lim, speaking to reporters yesterday on the sidelines of the NTUC's Future Leaders Summit, had been asked to elaborate on the statement NTUC put out on Thursday, in response to the recommendations for changes to MediShield Life.
The MediShield Life Review Committee (MLRC) had on Thursday suggested, for example, extending coverage to those with pre-existing conditions, substantially increasing claim limits, especially for outpatient chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments for cancer, and starting premium rebates from age 66 instead of 71.
The government has accepted the recommendations.
With claim limits to be raised and co-payment to be lowered, premiums are expected to rise, but the government has pledged to ensure that Medisave withdrawal limits will be sufficient for all MediShield Life premiums.
The NTUC had on Thursday issued a statement supporting the recommendations, but asked that the scheme maintain its relevance.
To reporters yesterday, Mr Lim stressed that the labour movement was "in full support" of the recommendations.
"The recommendations (of the MLRC) are very much welcomed by the labour movement and by workers. Firstly, all workers and their parents will be able to join MediShield Life, regardless of age, health or status. Secondly, the coverage is for life. And thirdly, the co-payment component (to be paid by patients) has been reduced significantly," he said.
He added, however, that workers were concerned about whether and by how much these changes would raise MediShield Life premiums, and whether they would be able to afford the cost of being covered.
"But, what was said (on Thursday by the government) that was quite reassuring was that, even with the increase in premiums, with the one percentage-point increase in Medisave contribution (by employers) from next year (and various government subsidies and Medisave top-ups), most families will be able to pay for the new premiums using their Medisave and without having to come out with cash. This is very reassuring to workers, but we look forward to more details," Mr Lim added.
He also pointed out that the recommended changes to MediShield Life would mean more duplication of terms and benefits between that scheme and company-based group insurance. Companies should thus make adjustments to their group insurance schemes so they are a better complement to MediShield Life.
He added that the PMBS could work as a bridge between MediShield Life and companies' group insurance schemes.
"We believe the introduction of MediShield Life is very timely (in that it allows) us to refocus on our objective of introducing the PMBS. The labour movement has been promoting and advocating this for some years, but the response has been fairly limited.
"Now, with the recommended changes to MediShield Life, the duplication (between company insurance and MediShield Life) is even greater; it gives us more scope to reduce the duplication, and thereby make the whole healthcare benefits system more affordable and more attractive to our workers."
At the Future Leaders Summit, Mr Lim also spoke on the challenges facing PMEs (professionals, managers and executives). Among these is the need for PMEs to change jobs - not because they are lured by better wages and career prospects - but because the economy is continually upgrading.
He said that to prepare for their future, PMEs should not only acquire deep vertical skills; they should also focus on "second skilling" and "horizontal skilling".
"It is better for our PMEs to not only know many things about something, but also to know something about many things," he said.