Singapore – The Ministry of Health (MOH) released a statement on February 16 (Saturday), saying that about 7,700 people who applied or renewed their Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) cards between September and October last year received miscalculated subsidies. The error was caused by a computer system malfunction.
CHAS is an initiative by the government to provide healthcare subsidies to its members.
According to an article published by Channel NewsAsia, about 1,300 of the individuals affected by the software issue received lower subsidies while the other 6,400 got more than what was due to them. The excess and deficit amounts were estimated to be about S$2 million and S$400,000 respectively. The S$2 million will be covered for by NCS, the IT services and solutions provider who administered the computer system, as per their contract.
The individuals who received lower subsidies will have the lacking amount reimbursed. On the other hand, those who got an excess could keep the difference.
NCS first detected the anomaly on September 24, 2018 through a means test result of a CHAS card-holder. This test-system calculates the subsidy amount for cardholders based on their income information. Those with lower income will receive higher financial support. Five more cases were spotted between October 9 and November 2, 2018. From here, a more thorough investigation was conducted and the initial assumption of “intermittent network connection problems” was disregarded.
The root cause was traced to a software version issue on the server used by the means-test-system after it transitioned to another government data centre in September. MOH said that “This resulted in the means-test results being computed without the requisite income information.” The software version issue was resolved on October yet the discrepancies incurred beforehand was irreversible. MOH and NCS assessed the damage and fixed the issue before making any public announcements, as MOH deemed it necessary to ascertain the root cause in order to prevent further issues moving forward. As of February 16, the system issue has been resolved and the correct subsidies were restored. MOH aims to have all affected individuals to be fully informed by mid-March 2019.
MOH is currently working with healthcare service providers and scheme organisers to communicate with the affected individuals to arrange for reimbursements. They also added that, at this point, no proactive action is needed by the affected CHAS subsidy recipients.
As for its precautionary actions, MOH has confirmed that “Additional safeguards have been put in place to prevent any recurrence of such incidents. NCS has reiterated its commitment to being held to the highest standards as a service provider.” MOH also reassured the public that it considers the gravity of the incident and is working with NCS to ensure that it won’t happen again.
On a side note, netizens are hoping that the same positive discrepancy would be experienced for their CPF.