Govt assistance schemes helped halve healthcare inflation rates: Chee Hong Tat [TODAY Online]

These shifts are important to keep our increases in healthcare spending at a more sustainable level as we consider different options to fund our future healthcare and long-term care needs.


Chee Hong Tat, Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health. Photo by Luke Yeo.

Recent initiatives such as the Pioneer Generation Package, the Community Health Assistance Scheme, and subsidies for MediShield Life have halved Singapore’s healthcare inflation rate down to about 1.2 per cent, bringing it below the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average of 1.6 per cent, Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat said in Parliament on Tuesday (Jan 9).

Prior to these government assistance schemes, annual healthcare inflation — which measures the growth rate of prices for healthcare related goods and services paid by patients, after government subsidies — stood at about 2.4 per cent between 2011 and 2016.

Mr Chee was responding to Sembawang Member of Parliament Lim Wee Kiak’s question on how the Ministry of Health (MOH) is helping to bring inflation down.

While it is important to monitor inflation, overall healthcare spending serves as a more “complete indicator”, he said.

“This is because subsidies are funded from Government revenue, which comes from the people through taxes and duties,” Mr Chee explained.

National healthcare spending has risen by more than 60 per cent between 2011 and 2015 — from S$11.5 billion to S$18.8 billion — as more healthcare facilities were built and workers hired to meet the growing demands of an ageing population.

“It is inevitable that our total spending on healthcare will increase further,” Mr Chee said, urging all stakeholders to “work together in close partnership”.

“To keep our overall healthcare costs sustainable in the future, we have to focus on ways to transform our healthcare system and prevent (costs) from rising too quickly.”

During last year’s Budget debates, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the MOH is working on three strategic shifts for this transformation.

Firstly, to invest “upstream” — in health promotion, diseases prevention and health screenings to help Singaporeans stay healthy.

Secondly, shifting care beyond hospitals to the community so that patients are better cared for at home.

Thirdly, enhancing care delivery by raising productivity, and by encouraging collaboration between healthcare providers and the community sector.

Mr Chee said: “(These) shifts are important to keep our increases in healthcare spending at a more sustainable level as we consider different options to fund our future healthcare and long-term care needs.”

He did not comment on Dr Lim’s question on the projected rate of inflation for the next three years.

Source: TODAY Online


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