Nothing for Heng Swee Keat to shout about for spending only $13b on healthcare from 2020

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By: Vincent Low/

The Straits Times reported yesterday that spending on healthcare is expected to rise sharply, quoting Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s prediction that healthcare spending would rise to at least $13 billion from 2020 onward. The daily added:

“To put that in perspective, the total budget for the Ministry of Health (MOH) in 2010 was $4 billion. In this year’s Budget, Mr Heng allocated it $10 billion.”

On the surface, it sounds like the PAP government has become very generous in taking care of the social welfare of Singaporeans. But in reality, it is merely playing catch-up with OECD countries after it was embarrassingly “shamed” in social media few years ago, revealing that Singapore’s healthcare spending has been inadequate for a so-called developed first-world nation.

According to the most recent data (2014) from World Bank, Singapore can be seen to be spending the least in healthcare as % of GDP among the first world countries (this is total health spending including private and public spending):

US – 17.1%
Sweden – 11.9%
Switzerland – 11.7%
France – 11.5%
Germany – 11.3%
Austria – 11.2%
New Zealand – 11.0%
Netherlands – 10.9%
Denmark – 10.8%
Belgium – 10.6%
Canada – 10.4%
Japan – 10.2%
Norway – 9.7%
Finland – 9.7%
Portugal – 9.5%
Australia – 9.4%
Italy – 9.2%
UK – 9.1%
Spain – 9.0%
Iceland – 8.9%
Greece – 8.1%
Israel – 7.8%
Ireland – 7.8%
South Korea – 7.4%
Luxembourg – 6.9%
Singapore – 4.9%

At 4.9% of healthcare expenditure, Singapore is ranked along with countries like Burkina Faso (5.0%), Libya (5.0%), Ethiopia (4.9%), Mauritius (4.8%).

OECD countries pay for majority share of total health expenditure – Singapore prepares to pay only 40%

And to make matter worse, the 4.9% quoted above for Singapore was for total healthcare spending, which includes both public and private spending.

Among the OECD countries, the average out-of-pocket or private expenditure as a share of total health expenditure in 2015 was 20.2%. That means, public spending as a share of total health expenditure was a whopping 79.8% for OECD countries on average. Even Korean’s share was 63.2%.

As for Singapore, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong could only announce few years ago that he will set the share of public spending on healthcare to about 40%. He said in Parliament:

“We will in fact take on a greater share of national spending, from the current one-third to about 40 percent and possibly even further, depending on various factors such as demographics, and our ability to manage healthcare costs and target our subsidies.”

That means to say, for every dollar spent on healthcare, Singaporeans have to foot the majority of the expenditure through private means (e.g., personal savings, insurance etc) at $0.60 per dollar while Minister Gan will pay only $0.40 for you.

Miserable $13 billion healthcare spending from 2020

Indeed, putting aside private spending on healthcare, the Singapore govt’s health spending as % of GDP is even more miserable, substantially lower than the overall 4.9% stated by World Bank above. MOH’s own data can confirm this:

SG Government Health Expenditure (in S$Billion and as % of GDP)
FY13 5.938 1.6% (i.e, GDP=$371b)
FY14 7.221 1.8% (i.e, GDP=$401b)
FY15 8.610 2.1% (i.e, GDP=$410b)

Coming back to what Minister Heng said about spending $13 billion from 2020 onwards, readers should take note that our GDP would have also grown substantially by that time.

According to a projection by DBS, Singapore’s economy will grow to USD354 billion (at 2010 USD) or S$453 billion by 2020:

That means, the Singapore Government’s health spending as % of GDP would only amount to 2.9% by 2020, nowhere near what OECD countries are willing to spend for their citizens.

And, going by what Minister Gan has promised in Parliament, 60% of the health cost will be paid for by Singaporeans privately. This will work out to be a whopping $19.5 billion by 2020 to be paid for by you and me.

46 COMMENTS

  1. Singapore spends money on salaries for their ministers. Check their per capita spend for ministers and we will be the top one by a very long shot! Do they care for their people? Only pay lip service to it!

  2. PAP willing to pay these MPs and Ministers Super high salary than giving welfare and medical subsidiaries to citizens. They made themselves millionaires within a short five years. This is their greed ways of pocketing their cash rather than helping the poor and destitutes.

  3. Its all humbug. Medishield Life which they boast hardly covers. Until we have denied them 2/3rd , we cannot find out the true picture. Sporeans must wake up n realise that enough opposition is necessary to save the country.

  4. Out of the $13b = how much more subsidy per citizen?? Bearing in mind they are planning for 6.9m, so more expenses may not mean more subsidy for citizens…

    and how much of it are “capital costs”… in normal accounting = these are not considered expenses but capitalised instead

    Arent we all (from newborn to the day we die) forced to have insurance = and when there’re claims, are these part of the $13b ?? Even with huge overheads, agents comm., etc. = insurance companies are known to make $$$$… any real subsidy if it’s covered by our own insurance… whatever not covered = paid by our own $$ (cash or medisave (subject to withdrawal limit, although suposed to be our own $) mah

  5. Definitely change need to be..
    Our healthcare cost is overly inflated…
    There is always a not enough mainly is bcos on one hand the say they will increase subsidies but on the other hand the increase all charges….

    So u tell me how not to increase taxing on we Singaporeans…

    Left hand give immediately right hand take back more.

    Really a bunch of bast***….
    Wish them have a tragic death , especially the dis******able son..

  6. Look at how our ‘public’ hospitals and polyclinics inflate their bills, then “subsidies” the bill using part of that $13bil healthcare budget. Clearly they can be more efficient in “caring” for the people if they stop their creative siphoning tricks.

  7. Money should be well spend. And not spend at something that is not necessary or extravagant, and stinge on things that matter. Is there some logic and priority issues with those in white?

    In many first world country, taxes are used as priority to provide good safety network for the weak, vulnerable and old, and for its citizen first, and not vice versa for those in power. For citizens: Many have free education, even free tertiary education, Comprehensive health benefits and good medical / health subsidies, good safety net for those unemployed, the senior and old are well taken care of (especially if they are vulnerable), some even took care of women pregnancy and/or giving birth too. (Some say in some places, public transport for citizens are free too)

    A recent documentary made and broadcast even show that NK provide free education, books and education for its young, free make up and beauty products for its women, free beer (10L every month) to its men, and even free housing too!

    Meanwhile, I don’t understand why some people still can afford to spend to fly private jet, etc? Ownself pay Ownself high high salary, etc?

    Talk about more taxes needed due to increasing social expenses???

  8. Also check, OECD countries spend at least 12% on primary care. If you don’t invest early in primary care, everything else becomes more and more expensive, which the private tertiary Hospitals would rather pretend not to be true.

    Less primary care, more tertiary care business.

  9. Everything they are doing are just to impress the whole world. To make believe that we are doing so well, but the stark reality is, internally we are just sinking into the deepest abyss. How long can they bullshit the world we wonder???

  10. Spore Government health care cannot be trusted la. Patient Low Back pain. No suffered for any spine problem. Tan Tock Seng Hospital Dr Ernest Wang insisted said to the patient said if patient did not do surgery on the cervical spine c3/4(Neck) patient could become paralysed. Dr Ernest Wang some more said to the patient said surgery is to prevent the patient condition getting worse and worsen due to paralysed. After surgery performed by Dr Ernest Wang patient condition getting worse and worsen badly compressed the spinal cord. Cause patient permanently unfit for work. Lose of earnings capacity. How the patient can continue to survived in future. Tan Tock Seng Hospital Dr Ernest Wang don’t bear for any responsible. Really sad this kind of thing happened in spore no help at all.

  11. I really not understand Spore Government Hospitals. Buy for all Doctors unsuccessful surgery insurance. Surgery performed by the doctor unsuccessful. Cause patient permanently unfit for work. Lose of earnings capacity. Government Hospitals and Doctors should show some responsible help up the patient Make a unsuccessful surgery insurance claim. To help up the patient. Too bad Spore Government Hospitals and Doctors not willing to it.

  12. Heartless bastards! Have to wait for the fking 70% to get hit with a serious medical condition..only way they will know what this government is all about!

  13. PAP aren’t caring. They are “going thru the motion” and “faking it”. Why would they? They are all highly paid and are in power control of SG. They also know that PAP will NEVER be lose election becos PAP will change the election to suite them. Typical

  14. Shows again our so-called “honest & caring” Govt. has short changed us again & after being shamed for not carrying out their commitments unwittingly made the required adjustments over health care spending. What a disappointment here illustrating lack of sincerity & responsibility. Only use finances to their own advantage-their salaries. Alright it’s only fair to take of yourselves but don’t forget others (the people of Singapore) which u took an oath when u were sworn in as our leaders? A Big Big SHAME SHAME on u all!!!!!

  15. Do they really spend so much?
    They would not have to if they did not first inflate the price of everything.
    Then after that, they give you a discount and you felt so happy over it.
    Just like a shopping centre.

  16. At the dispensary when pills cost 10 cents or 20 cents, there is subsidy. No big deal.
    But when the pills cost $2 or $3 a pop, (and this is where we really need the subsidy) they say it’s non standard medication and therefore no subsidy.

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