MOH rejects Singaporean’s appeal to use medisave to pay for wife’s emergency operation at MOH-approved Malaysian hospital

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The Ministry of Health (MOH) has rejected a Singaporean’s appeal to use Medisave funds to pay for his wife’s emergency operation at a Malaysian hospital, on the grounds that he and his wife reside in Malaysia despite being Singaporeans, even though the Malaysian hospital is MOH-approved.

Retiree Mokhtar Bin Rahmat took to Facebook to share his disappointment with MOH. Revealing that he has lived in Malaysia for the past five years with his wife, the 60-year-old shared that his wife had to undergo an emergency operation and was admitted to Regency Hospital about two months ago. The operation and five days of hospitalisation amounted to about RM$25,000 or SGD$8,400.

Mokhtar knew that Regency Hospital is MOH-approved: “Any Singaporean can have a surgery in that hospital. As it was Singapore approved. Check with it’s website. It’s written there.”

Indeed, the facility has been a Medisave accredited overseas hospital since 1 March 2010 and Singapore patients receiving treatment at the hospital may use their Medisave funds to cover hospitalisation costs. Patients wishing to tap on their Medisave funds must, however, be referred through Health Management International (HMI)’s Medisave-accredited referral centre.

Located at Balestier Clinic & Health Screening Centre in Singapore, the centre offers pre-admission clinical assessment and financial counselling for patients hoping to seek treatment in Malaysia.

Since Mokhtar’s wife had an emergency procedure, the attending doctor wrote a letter to support Mokhtar’s appeals to use Medisave funds to pay the hospital bill since there was no time to go through HMI’s Medisave-accredited referral centre as Mokhtar’s wife was bleeding, making a trip to Singapore to seek prior approval impossible. Mokhtar made a trip to the HMI centre in Balestier to hand-deliver his appeal.

MOH, however, rejected Mokhtar’s appeal, forcing the senior citizen to borrow from friends and relatives to pay the hospital bill. The letter stated: “We note that your family are currently not residing in Singapore. Hence, we are unable to accede to your request. Should you have further concerns on managing any oustanding amount, we would suggest you approach the Business Office of Regency Specialist Hospital to discuss suitable financial arrangements.”

Mokhtar lamented on social media: “Why can’t I use my Medisave since it was a government approved? Am I being short changed? Furthermore, it was an emergency. My wife was bleeding. How to come back Singapore?…Why am I not allowed to use my Medisave monies with black and white proof? What do you want from me? You want to see me die? Only then I could use my money? We are not elites earning millions of tax payers money.”

Revealing to a local publication that he has spent over SGD$10,000 in cash, especially considering his wife needs to go for follow-up consultations and such, Mokhtar appealed: “I want justice. Not charity. That’s all.”