Another WP MP Asked to Provide Details About Case She Mentioned in Parliament

During February’s Budget debate, Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) He Ting Ru, who is part of the Sengkang GRC, brought up a case of seniors who told their doctors to reduce the dosage of their prescribed medicines because they couldn’t afford it.

As a parting remark, she asked: “What does it say about us as a society?”

However, that particular topic was put on hold after 28 Feb, because Ms He proceeded to miss the rest of the debates as she had been infected with COVID-19.

It appears that the Senior Minister of State for Health Koh Poon Koon remembered her segment clearly, since he sought clarifications during the Parliament session on 4 Apr.

The Specifics of the Chronically Ill Senior

Unlike Mr Leong Mun Wai who needed to check his WhatsApp for the residents’ complaints, Ms He was far more prepared.

She replied that she met the resident during a Meet-the-People session.

The elderly man had told her he was prescribed various medications for his chronic illness, but he still had to pay for a portion of it out-of-pocket despite tapping into Medisave and various subsidies.

Apparently, he had also previously asked for the medicines to be taken off his prescription since he couldn’t afford them.

In essence, the man had to deal with the pains that his chronic illness brought, while barely eking out a living for himself in such conditions.

Ms He then mentioned that she wrote to the Central Provident Fund (CPF) on this issue.

She summarised, “This case is a specific example of a resident who made a request to cut back on his medications as he believed he could not afford it—perhaps due to a lack of awareness of the help available, or else a lack of confidence in making the necessary applications and appeals.”

In simpler terms, Ms He was insinuating that the medical system is a complex structure that might be difficult for some individuals, like the elderly to grasp, which hinders their ability to obtain the financial assistance they need.

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Koh: Better Options than CPF

In response, Dr Koh said that CPF may not be the most appropriate agency to refer the man.

Afterwards, he reiterates the changes that were made to the Medisave scheme, such as allowing seniors with complex chronic conditions to draw up to $700 from the Medisave accounts annually.

This was on top of the modified Flexi-Medisave limit, wherein elderly patients seeking outpatient programmes can draw $300 from the scheme.

Besides that, there is also the Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP), which covers 20 of the more common chronic diseases.

Dr Koh notes that nine out of ten patients who used Medisave last year to treat their chronic conditions were fully covered by the CDMP, and they didn’t hit the limit.

However, Dr Koh acknowledges that the resident that Ms He brought up might have been one of the few that slipped out through the safety nets, or his medication was more unique and special.

After all, the current medical system and government spending ensures that the medical bills for seniors are heavily subsidised.

Since the particular resident had been brought to his attention, Dr Koh asked Ms He to send him the patient’s details.

“I think we will try all our means to help this patient get access to the care he or she needs,” he said.

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