A committee reviewing ElderShield, a national severe disability insurance scheme, has recently recommended that the Singapore government take over the running of this scheme.

At the moment, Singaporeans are automatically enrolled into the programme when they are 40 years old. They are assigned to one of three private insurers for the scheme – Aviva, Great Eastern Life Assurance Company and NTUC Income.

MOH to study suggestions by Review Committee

Over the past six months, roughly 600 Singaporeans took part in focus group discussions in relation to the ElderShield scheme. They came up with many suggestions and one of them was to simplify the administration of the programme with the use of a single provider. This is the case with health insurance scheme, MediShield Life as well.

“It is of the view that there is merit in studying the value and feasibility of government administration of ElderShield, while retaining private insurers’ participation in the provision of long-term care insurance,” the ElderShield Review Committee expressed in a statement on 6 July.

The Ministry of Health asserted, in reply to the proposal, that it would study it carefully and share its findings with the committee.

ElderShield provides monthly payouts of up to SGD400 for up to six years to aid account holders who cannot conduct activities of daily living such as eating, dressing or bathing independently.

Data can be analysed if the government takes over

The team reviewing the scheme has projected to complete the review and submit suggestions to the Health Ministry by end of the year. Other issues that they intend to study would be the mandating of ElderShield and whether the current payouts are sufficient for the members.

Mr Christopher Gee, senior research fellow at the Institute of Policy Studies, stated that, at the moment, the three private insurers manage separate risk pools. “But when the government takes over and the risk is pooled across the nation, it is more diversified, and the premiums are better managed in the long run,” he elaborated.

He also remarked that data could be better analysed with the government having access to all of it in comparison to the independent parties. In other words, risks can be more accurately calculated and the revision of premium pricing could follow suit. “When there is no proper pricing, people are either overcharged or there is under pricing,” he explained.

Other suggestions to ease application process and accessibility

To enhance the scheme, the committee also announced the assembly of a sub-committee to look into revamping the ElderShield claims process. They also plan to make it easier to navigate and more accessible for the severely disabled patients, caregivers and long-term care providers.

The committee relayed that caregivers have expressed concerns and uncertainties from patients regarding what their coverage is; or how to make a claim. To identify key points where relevant information can be provided, the sub-committee is reviewing the various care types that severely disabled patients receive in hospitals and other care settings.

Besides that, the committee is also studying the best way to work front-line staff to guide families more efficiently through the claims application procedure. MIMS

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Eligible Singaporeans received subsidies of SGD169 million last year