In October 2016, The Ministry of Health (MOH) accepted the MediShield Life Council’s recommendations to grant suspensions of premiums for eligible overseas Singaporeans who live abroad permanently.
Over the past year, about 3,000 Singaporeans residing overseas have applied to suspend their payments for MediShield Life premiums, according to MOH statistics. It added that there are 213,400 Singaporeans residing abroad, as at the end of September 2017.
The Ministry told reporters today that about 70 per cent of of all applications were approved, while another 26 per cent of applications were rejected because they did not fulfill the required criteria for applying.
The remaining 4 per cent of applications are still under review.
Compulsory MediShield Life replaced MediShield from November 2015. Medishield Life, as compared to Medishield, offers higher claim limits for hospital bills and includes claim allowances some outpatient treatments. It also covers more pre-existing medical conditions.
MediShield Life, however, requires all Singapore citizens and permanent residents – including those permanently living overseas – to pay annual premiums.
Since the compulsory change was implemented in late 2015, some 2000 people signed an online petition for MOH to suspend premiums of certain citizens under special considerations.
The next year, MOH granted suspensions of premiums for those who have a valid permanent resident permit in the country they are living in and those who have lived abroad for at least five years, with no more than 140 days spent back in Singapore during this period.
These citizens must be able to afford healthcare in their country of residence and declare that they do not need to rely on MediShield Life in Singapore. They must also have completed their full-time National Service, if required.
Besides this, they can only apply for suspension of premiums if they have not benefited from MediShield or MediShield Life payouts in the five years prior to the start of the suspension.
Interestingly, there are still some Singaporeans residing overseas who wish to be covered by MediShield Life, even though they have no plans to come back.
40-year-old Ms Cai Pei Qi, who is self-employed and emigrated to South Korea eleven years ago, told the Chinese daily:
“If I’m critically ill, I wish to seek medical treatment in a familiar environment. My family is in Singapore, and they can take care of me. Although I have friends in Korea, they can’t take the heavy responsibility of looking after me.”
It must be noted that citizens who have been granted suspension of premiums or no longer meet the eligibility requirements of the suspension will face an additional charge of 4 per cent of interest rate per annum, if they choose to seek medical treatment in Singapore.