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Important:To fellow Singaporeans living abroad

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Exempt Overseas Singaporeans from Medishield Life Premiums.
by Juliet Low, London, United Kingdom
**WHAT IS MEDISHIELD LIFE?

MediShield Life is a basic health insurance, that aims to protect Singaporeans against large medical bills in public hospitals. Because it is an insurance, you still need to pay a certain percentage of deductible. It's coverage is still limited but one may buy additional private insurance.

**WHY IS MEDISHIELD LIFE GREAT?

I’m very glad that we are finally making our first steps to getting our citizens universal coverage and applaud this move. I believe we can eventually tweak coverage areas to improve on it, but the policy in its infancy stage is a promising start.

10 years ago, in order to obtain health insurance that would overlook my pre-existing conditions, I left Singapore to work in the USA. Today, I reside in the UK. One day, I hope to be able to return to Singapore to be closer to my family, when I find a sustainable way to ensure that my medical bills can be paid for.

**SO WHAT IS WRONG WITH IT?

This is a good system but I fear that in it’s current form of implementation, it has overlooked the fact that certain factions of Singaporeans who reside overseas for the long term, do not require health insurance in Singapore. This is irrelevant to our healthcare, and may add burden to our finances unnecessarily.

By the end of this year, it would be mandatory for all Singaporeans and PR to contribute to Medishield Life. For a healthy person 30 years of age, they are likely to contribute a total sum of S$32,140 in lifetime payments. Singaporeans who have a pre-existing condition must pay an "Additional Premium" of 30% for the first 10 years.

Many of us deem that it is unfair that we should pay for something we don’t actually use. Many of us are covered by travel insurance when we visit Singapore, and already pay for healthcare coverage in our current jurisdiction.

There are severe punishments for those who fail to keep up with payments. The maximum penalty for defaulters is a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment of up to a year, or both, and possibly recovery costs and a 17% late payment fee. The Bill also gives the insurance administrator the power to have money from a defaulter's wages and bank accounts diverted to pay the premiums.

Many of us overseas do not have much funds left in our Medisave to pay for such premiums. A lot of overseas Singaporeans will be caught out. This is a rather slippery slope. The Singapore Government must look into exemptions, otherwise they risk this looking like another forced policy without consideration for special groups. It induces fear amongst us, when we risk imprisonment due to unawareness that we have to pay for due premiums. It is not fair. And I fear that this would be the final straw for many who would prefer to relinquish their citizenship, resulting in a further brain drain crisis.

**OUR AIM.

We will like to petition the Singapore Government to exempt Overseas Singaporeans from this mandatory scheme. We should be allowed to opt out while we are away from the country and opt in when we return to reside in Singapore.

Using the address on the NRIC to determine subsidies and premiums are insufficient. They must be able to look into the records of Singaporeans who have been registered with the OSU (Overseas Singaporean Unit) and have also been legally registered as overseas voters.

Many Overseas Singaporeans had been disappointed when they raised this issue with MOH or CPF. I think this could certainly be better handled. Most had been given a blanket statement that was from a standard list of answers, and I find it sad that our valid concerns had not been sufficiently heard and escalated..

**GOING FORWARD.

I believe in our policies in Singapore. I believe our government continues to do their best for us. In large scale policies like this, there are bound to be special interest groups that are caught out unfavourably, but I also believe that policies can be sufficiently tweaked when escalated to ensure that the maximum number of people benefit, with the minimum number of people being adversely affected.

Some of us will be willing to participate in consultation sessions with the relevant decision makers. I will truly appreciate if the Government and its people could find a way towards relevant exemptions to Medishield Life for Overseas Singaporeans.

Majulah Singapura! Let's celebrate another milestone for SG50 by ending irrelevant policies.

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