Helping Yourself Where Politicians Can’t or Won’t – Healthcare

New Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong

It has been weeks since Polling Day and the dust from Singapore’s latest General Election has settled, but local issues and national concerns naturally do not change overnight.

Healthcare remains a pressing issue for many Singaporeans who are facing the brunt of the high costs of healthcare. All you have to do is to browse a few local sociopolitical websites and you can read articles about high costs of healthcare or the inefficiencies of subsidised healthcare, and many accompanying comments, often bitter and sarcastically referencing outgoing Minister for Health Khaw Boon Wan’s $8 out-of-pocket surgical expenses.

Personally, I feel it is ironic that many people are unhappy with the incumbent government for being a “nanny”, and yet expect the government to help with their medical expenses. I am not saying that the government should not do so – in fact, they have been and are providing subsidised healthcare. Of course, the degree of subsidies and the quality of subsidised healthcare may not be agreeable to all, but it is some form of help nevertheless. On top of that, they have in place Medisave and Medishield to provide for healthcare financing. Instead of complaining about high costs and how a Minister can pay only $8 for a surgery, I wonder why such people do not just take some time to understand how they can make use of the existing system to help themselves instead of waiting helplessly for powers that be to “rescue” them.

On the other extreme, there are people who have seemingly too much faith in the existing system, thinking that government measures are all they need to get by. When the unfortunate strikes, I believe these people would be in for a rude shock.

Welfare is not a hallmark of local policy making and the government has always adopted a “we help you help yourself” position. This is particularly true of our healthcare system which is long engineered to take care of healthcare of basic quality and smaller bills, and allows citizens to help themselves boost their own coverage against hospitalisation expenses. We can wait and see what improvements new Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong will bring, but I do not think it will deviate too much from such principles. We can also debate the merits of alternative systems or improvements proposed by the opposition, but with only 9 seats in Parliament, such discussions will probably be just academic in nature for the near future.

Instead of depending on policymakers, proper financial planning allows one to handle healthcare expenses in Singapore (not just talking about insurance which some people wrongfully believe to be a cure-all panacea or koyok that will take care of everything), and as the name suggests, “planning” is only for people who have yet to encounter problems. These are the type of people who can still help themselves and I am able to assist. Those who have already been caught with such problems will probably have little choice but to rely on politicians to help them. People who still have the luxury to plan for contingencies should do well not to squander this chance. Good health and financial soundness are not things that are guaranteed.

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