SINGAPORE : Changes will be made to Singapore's insurance scheme for the elderly - ElderShield - from September.
This is to meet the growing needs of Singaporeans in long-term disability care.
It will comprise two tiers - a basic scheme for the lower income and an enhanced scheme for those who want better coverage.
Singaporeans will also have more insurers to pick from.
Aviva will enter the market to compete with Great Eastern Life Assurance and NTUC Income Insurance Co-operative.
ElderShield, which was started five years ago, has come in handy for 53-year-old S Subramaniam.
Having lost his left leg after an ulcer infection, and now unemployed, the $300 monthly payout is a big relief for him.
S Subramaniam, an ElderShield beneficiary, said: "I can use it pay my household bills, especially the utilities, rent and conservancy charges. I try to minimise my hospital appointments, and am trying my best to do so.
"I want to keep myself fit by doing some exercises at home and keep my sugar level (low). If I get a higher premium, it will be much better because I will be able to save for something else or for emergency."
From September, the disability insurance scheme will have two tiers - Basic ElderShield and ElderShield Supplements.
Basic ElderShield will pay $400 a month for up to six years, up from $300 for up to five years currently.
This works out to a maximum potential payout of $28,800, which is 60 percent more than the current $18,000.
Singaporeans who join the scheme at the age of 40 would have to make 26 premium payments.
For men, the annual premium is $164, and for women, $204.
This is about $2 more per month in premium, and the Health Ministry says it represents good value for money considering the substantial improvement in payouts.
Those who want more benefits and are willing to pay higher premiums can top up with ElderShield Supplements.
Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan said: "My main effort in this reform is to recognise that different Singaporeans have different needs. If you have one single model, it will satisfy a group but many will feel dissatisfied. So this is a solution I came up with.
"But being a new product - both ElderShield and Supplements - consumers will take some time, but it does not matter. It's like Medisave and MediShield. It took us a while for people to understand and appreciate (them)... But over time, the important point is to be in it."
Existing ElderShield policy holders will be given three options.
They can remain on the current scheme, upgrade to the new basic tier or top up with an ElderShield supplement.
All Singaporeans who turn 40 this year will be offered the new basic ElderShield scheme unless they opt out or have pre-existing disabilities.
The health minister is advising Singaporeans not to opt out when the time comes to signing on to Eldershield.
Mr Khaw said he is quite happy with the response to ElderShield in the last five years.
"Now, for each generation, about 14 percent opt out. I hope it will be single digit number but we'll see. I will be surprised if it does not continue to fall. It has been falling, it was around 30 percent when it started, now it's about half," said the health minister.
"I do hope for zero percent opting out but it's not really necessary. There will be people, for various reasons, who will self insure. My advice to Singaporeans is, for those turning 40, to stay in the scheme. It is highly affordable. A few years later, if you think you can afford higher supplements, by all means top up your scheme with supplements."
"Even for people already in it, like myself, I am looking at what are the supplements the insurers are coming up with. They will take some time to formulate, and I am sure they are thinking about it," he added.
The minister believes insurance companies will now be busy working out the ElderShield supplements as market surveys indicate Singaporeans want a higher payout and a longer period of repayment. - CNA /ls