MediShield Life a strategy for building more inclusive society: WHO Director-General
By10 Feb 2015, CNA
SINGAPORE: The World Health Organization (WHO) is confident that the various healthcare schemes and programmes available in Singapore will put the country in good stead to deal with more complex healthcare challenges in the future.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan – who is in Singapore for the two-day Ministerial Meeting on Universal Health Coverage – singled out MediShield Life, which provides universal health coverage for Singaporeans facing large hospital bills. She said that besides giving citizens more assurance, the scheme also works as a strategy for building a more inclusive and progressive society.
By 2030, one in five Singaporeans will be aged 65 and above. Studies have shown that the elderly are four times more likely to be hospitalised than younger Singaporeans. So designing MediShield Life – a healthcare financing system that is fiscally sustainable – is key to ensuring that Singaporeans are taken care of even in their silver years.
The WHO commended Singapore’s foresight in achieving first-rate healthcare with outstanding outcomes at a cost lower than in any other high-income country in the world. However, Dr Chan also stressed the importance of individual responsibility.
She said: “In terms of health, there is no free lunch. Where is the money coming from? People will think ‘the money comes from the Government’. But Government is basically poor. Its wealth comes from tax from the population.
“You can ask for many things like the sun, the moon and the sky and do not want to pay for it. There is no such thing. Money has to come from somewhere. So it is in your own interest that you use the health services and system judiciously.”
With universal health coverage, the problem of overconsumption of services may arise. And it is critical that healthcare institutions work closely to share data on the right level of care to be provided for a patient.
Dr Chan also suggested incentivising both patients and healthcare providers. She said: “If you reward volume of services, providers of care like your doctor – whatever system you have – will gravitate towards that in order to generate more income. But if you provide incentives to discourage over servicing and gradually the behaviour change of both physicians, the patients will move towards the right balance.”
She added: “If you reward visits, every visit a doctor gets paid, then the doctor will encourage. Patients will keep coming back. For example, in Monaco, they use an all-inclusive charge for (appendicitis). If you have no complications, you get this payment but if the patient has complications and has to be readmitted to sort out the complications, there is no additional fees for that.
“So you are rewarding quality of care. So in this way, you will encourage physicians to provide good care and reduce complications.”
Dr Chan also warned about growing healthcare concerns such as childhood obesity – a common problem that countries which enjoy economic success are likely to face.
This article is about Medishield Life coverage.