Saturday, July 21, 2012

Proposed Medishield enhancements: Raymond's letter to the press

The Ministry of Health's (MOH) proposed MediShield enhancements will benefit many patients, especially the elderly sick and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

It is also heartening that newly diagnosed patients who require inpatient psychiatric treatment will gain from the enhanced coverage. This would indeed encourage more Singaporeans who require treatment to seek it early.

But many long-term psychiatric patients are also worried about rising medical costs. A lot of them are unemployed for long periods and have limited Medisave contributions.

Their caregivers often must give up their jobs to provide round-the-clock supervision, as mental illness can be unpredictable, placing a financial burden on both parties.

Patients such as my wife, who is at risk of falls due to her advanced arthritis, are advised to be admitted to the Institute of Mental Health's medical ward when they have a relapse - in her case, of schizophrenia - to be monitored closely, to prevent falls.

The fees are not cheap. Ward charges are about $1,200 a month, or $40 a day. With costs for medication and treatment such as blood tests, X-rays and electro convulsive therapy, I would have to pay about $4,000 a month.

My wife and I have not benefited from paying MediShield premiums every year. In addition, no insurance company will cover her for any of her physical chronic illnesses because she has mental illness. The psychiatric community needs more support from MOH.

Raymond Anthony Fernando

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