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MediShield Life's deductibles too high: SDP's Prof Tambyah

These out-of-pocket costs 'put the burden of health insurance on the young'

Prof Tambyah complimented DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam for focusing on the issues instead of engaging in gutter politics. Dr Chee and other SDP candidates also spoke at the Fullerton lunch-time rally.


SINGAPORE Democratic Party (SDP) candidate Paul Tambyah highlighted gaps in the upcoming MediShield Life scheme and addressed concerns raised by Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Tharman Shanmugaratnam in relation to SDP's proposed policies at the first lunch-time rally of the 2015 General Elections on Monday.

The two-hour rally, held in the promenade adjacent to UOB Plaza, attracted big crowds, who greeted SDP candidates such as party chief Chee Soon Juan and Professor Tambyah with loud cheers.

In his speech, Prof Tambyah - a senior consultant for infectious diseases at the National University Hospital - identified holes in the MediShield Life scheme, a universal health insurance scheme for all Singaporeans for life, saying that the high deductibles requiring out-of-pocket payments would put a burden on children and grandchildren if the elderly could not afford it.

The subsidies that will be rolled out for senior citizens will expire after a certain period, which passes the burden onto future generations and is "not sustainable", he stressed.

"We need many more opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) in Parliament to sieve through the complexities of Singapore's health-care system, to ensure that Singaporeans have peace of mind," he said, adding that MediShield was probably the world's most profitable public health-care insurance policy, going by the medical loss ratio.

He also touched on DPM Tharman's point that a higher tax on Singapore's top one per cent of income earners was not feasible. The SDP has, in its proposed policies, said it would raise taxes on the top one per cent in Singapore to fund its programmes.

Prof Tambyah noted that in the past, the top one per cent were great philanthropists who gave back to society by building schools and did not hold the government of the day "hostage". "That is the kind of top one per cent we want," he said, adding that Singapore did not want tax evaders and billionaire playboys.

He complimented DPM Tharman for focusing on issues instead of resorting to gutter politics, and described him as Singapore's most brilliant minister. He also quipped that many in the opposition camp were secretly hoping that the DPM would one day leave the People's Action Party (PAP) to head a coalition of opposition parties.

Prof Tambyah, together with Dr Chee, are part of the SDP team contesting the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC against the PAP incumbents.

In his speech, Dr Chee reiterated that Singapore spent one of the least on health care among OECD countries, and went on to highlight what he described as "questionable" investments by Temasek Holdings and the GIC; among the examples cited were the investment in Olam last year and in Thailand's Shin Corp back in 2006, as well as its investments in banks such as UBS, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Barclays between 2007 and 2008, during the global financial crisis.

Meanwhile, he stressed, Singapore's hospitals were facing a capacity crunch.

"The PAP does as it pleases, making dangerously wrong decisions without proper scrutiny and accountability," he said, adding that there needed to be more opposition in Parliament to keep the PAP in check.

Dr Chee also homed in on social and economic inequality in Singapore, noting that the income disparity here was "one of the worst" among advanced economies.

"I want to make very clear the SDP stand: We are not opposed to wealth, but wealth inequality," he said. "Wealth polarisation... erodes cohesiveness, it corrodes values that fosters social togetherness. It fuels resentment and ultimately, instability."

Other SDP candidates who spoke at the rally were Khung Wai Yeen, Chong Wai Fung, Jaslyn Go, John Tan, Bryan Lim and Damanhuri Bin Abas.

In his speech, Mr Khung, referring to the "carrots" offered by the PAP in the form of the upgrading of Housing Development Board flats, suggested that the focus should instead be on direction and policies.

Ms Go said in her speech that upgrading of estates should be a national programme, independent of political party affiliation.


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