Praise of Singapore’s healthcare system by Fox News incomplete and misleading

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By: Leong Sze Hian

Fox News recently ran an article entitled Want to ditch ObamaCare? Let’s copy Singapore’s health care miracle which praised Singapore’s for having the “world’s greatest healthcare system” despite spending only 4.7% of its GDP on this area.

While Singapore’s hospitals may be much more accessible compared to the expensive and ailing American healthcare system, the reality is that Singapore’s healthcare system is far from being good.

Just look at how many people can’t pay for their medical bills and may end up in the typical debt collection process? I believe nobody knows. But here are some startling statistics:

Hospitals owed $110m, wrote-off $90m?

From the last available statistics given in a Parliamentary reply, public hospitals were then owed about $110 million, after writing off about $90 million in FY 2008, FY 2009 and FY 2010.

21% in debt due to healthcare?

In addition, about 21% per cent of Singaporeans who sought help from Credit Counseling Singapore cited healthcare costs as one of the reasons for getting into debt.

Greatest fear of Singaporeans?

Moreover, Straits Times ran an article on 25 Feb 2014 entitled Lack of money for medical bills tops Singaporeans’ retirement fears: Nielsen survey which pointed out that “Singaporeans’ biggest fear when it comes to ageing is not having enough money to pay for medical bills during their retirement, a survey has found.”

Also, why is it that a survey in 2013/14 found that some patients chose to die without treatment due to concerns about healthcare costs?

Very high % of income contribution to Medisave?

As Singaporeans contribute as much as 10.5% of their income to their Medisave accounts – we may from a cashflow perspective – arguably be paying the highest “implicit healthcare premium” (as a percentage of income) in the world.

Still not spending a single cent on healthcare?

Do the total contributions and interest credited to Medisave account balances annually, still exceed annual total public healthcare expenditure and total withdrawals from Medisave accounts to pay for medical expenses and insurance premiums?

If so, then from a cashflow perspective, we may still continue to be the only country in the world that is arguably, not spending a single cent on healthcare?