Khaw Boon Wan is one of the most well liked ministers around.....maybe because most people haven't been means tested or had a severe illness not covered by insurance.
In a recent posting in his blog (mohsingapore.blogspot.com), he wrote that he paid only $8 for his recent bypass. $8 is not even enough to buy a ticket for the movies these days. Recall that Minister Khaw's condition was detected through an expensive calcium test[Link] which ordinary folks probably don't take....so if they have the same condition as Khaw, they probably won't find out about their heart condition until they have a severe heart attack. The reason Minister Khaw paid only $8 because he is covered by both Medishield and a private insurance plan. This is strange right? I really wonder why minister who is paid millions in salary per year needs to supplement his Medshield with a private plan. If Khaw as a millionaire minister finds Medishield inadequate and supplements it with a private insurance plan, what does that say about the Medishield?! These private plans can cost $2k-$3K or higher per year depending on your age and health condition.
Singapore's healthcare system has to be always compared with the those of other 1st world countries. We are definitely better than most developing countries if you're not too poor to afford it. If you look at the % of the healthcare burden shouldered by individuals (vs govt expediture) it is the highest in the developed world even higher than the US which had a healthcare crisis that had to be fixed. Our system is not universal:
"We have been particularly effective in reducing the % of uninsured young Singaporeans, from 45% in 2007 to 17% in 2009" - Khaw Boon Wan [Link]
In the US when they debate the severe healthcare crisis of a 'large' number of uninsured Americans, they number they were talking about was 15.4%[Link]. For a developed country, our uninsured population is huge. After Obama's healthcare reform, Singapore will be the only developed country without universal healthcare[Link].
When I read Minister Khaw's blog, I'm very happy that he acknowledges that more needs to be done:
"........ especially in extending MediShield to include mental illness, congenital illness and neonatal treatment. There were also comments on raising the claim limits on outpatient cancer care, so as to relieve the burden on cancer patients. " - Khaw Boon Wan
I wrote about coverage of children with congenital illnesses many times in my blog and it has been the topic of much debate over the past years. If the system does not take care of Singaporean children who are born sick, can we ever say the system is good? The reason the govt doesn't do this is simply because it doesn't want to allocate money to solve this. But what is lacking in govt is not money but heart. Perhaps Minister Khaw has his heart at the right place because he at least recognise that this is something that has to be fixed. However, he belongs to a political party that leans too far to the right whose basic philosophy is to shift as much burden as possible to the sick and their families. It has been many years, many babies and many parents who struggle to provide care for these children with little help from the govt. The money is there ...we are not a poor country. But helping sick babies is too difficult for this govt to do - we need to wait, debate and ponder over it for decades.....but there are no big deal to just spend $387M on a sporting event or lose a few billion in western banks or spend money on expensive military hardware that has little relevance in a world where the threats have changed from all out war to low intensity conflicts. Minister Khaw needs to ask for more budget to cover those who have no insurance and take care of those who are now left out by the system. ...if we treat healthcare as important as defense, we can only get stronger as a nation because ultimately when the time comes and we are called to serve with our lives, we will remember how well we were taken care of in our time of need.