Premiums for MediShield, Singapore's national health insurance scheme, are set to rise next year even as it aims to provides wider and enhanced coverage for Singaporeans.
The annual premium will rise between S$17 and $251 per year, depending on a person's age.
For the majority of policyholders aged 65 and below, the raise will amount to no more than S$5 per month.
For those older, their premiums will be largely offset by the annual and one-time Medisave top-ups.
"The important thing is to assure Singaporeans that even with the adjustment in premiums and deductibles, MediShield and healthcare will continue to be affordable for Singaporeans," said Health Minister Gan Kim Yong on Wednesday at the opening of a new training centre at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Explaining the decision behind the revamp, the last of which was done in 2008, Gan said that costs have risen as patients receive better drugs and treatment. Claims by an insured person have also been going up.
The new changes would help "restore the focus of Medishield on larger bills which will impose a much larger financial burden on patients", he added.
For those that have difficulties paying their MediShield premiums and deductibles despite the assistance given will have avenues such as Medifund to turn to for further help.
Medisave top-ups of up to $450 a year under the GST Voucher scheme can also offset the premium, said MOH.
In the Budget this year, a one-time Medisave top-up of up to S$33 per month was announced to help Singaporeans absorb the impact of the increase.
Among the major changes, the amount hospital patients can claims will also be increased. From next year, patients will be able to claim up to S$70,000 for their hospital bills annually, up from the current S$50,000.
The lifetime claims limit will be adjusted from S$200,000 to S$300,000 to help patients who face large medical bills.
MediShield coverage will also be extended to two groups of policyholders: Those up to 90 years old, from 85 previously; and newly-diagnosed patients who need in-patient psychiatric treatment, with daily claim limit capped at S$100.
MediShield will also cover short-stay wards in the hospitals' emergency departments.
Coverage will be extended to include congenital and neo-natal conditions, although this is subject to public feedback.
"For congenital and neo-natal conditions to be covered under MediShield, the population will then have to take into account the premiums that will be associated with this additional coverage. So we want to listen to feedback. It is a process of consultation," Gan said.
The proposed coverage will cost about S$12 per year, or about S$1 per month, and a public consultation will be launched from 18 July to 15 August 15 to gather feedback. Singaporeans may also send their feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.