About 450,000 Singaporeans aged 65 or older this year will benefit from the new Pioneer Generation Package, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.
These seniors will get help to pay for their MediShield Life insurance premiums, get subsidies for outpatient treatment and enjoy extra top-ups into their Medisave accounts every year - for the rest of their lives.
More assistance will be given to those who are older, he said during a tribute party held at the Istana to honour the country's pioneers.
In his speech, Mr Lee thanked this generation of Singaporeans for their hard work and contributions over the years as they helped build the country into what it is today.
Sharing details of the qualifying criteria for the package, Mr Lee said that these pioneers have to be born on or before Dec 31, 1949, and who became Singapore citizens by Dec 31, 1986. Those who make the cut will be informed in due course.
He explained that, with these parameters, a pioneer today would have been about 16 years or older at independence back in 1965. Many people in those days started working in their late-teens.
Also included is Singapore's first batch of national servicemen, who were called up in 1967.
Explaining why the government chose to include those who became citizens by the end of 1986, Mr Lee said that it was because of the lack of complete data on registration records up to that point in time.
The prime minister added that for the other older Singaporeans who do not meet the criteria for the package, the government would "continue to take care of you in many other ways, and enable you to look after yourself and your families, as we do all other Singaporeans".
Addressing the 1,000-strong audience in Malay earlier, Mr Lee had a special mention for the pioneers in the Malay community. He noted that many of them had chosen to remain in Singapore after the country separated from Malaysia, and this had helped the Republic become a multi-racial and multi-religious society.
"We have thought carefully and consulted widely about what would be meaningful and helpful to you. We know that healthcare is at the top of the minds of older Singaporeans," Mr Lee said.
He gave the assurance to pioneers that they would enjoy the enhanced benefits of the new MediShield Life national health insurance scheme but pay less than what they do under the existing MediShield.
As for outpatient treatment, they will get extra subsidies at specialist outpatient clinics, polyclinics and general practitioner clinics under the Community Health Assist Scheme - on top of all the other subsidies that they already enjoy.
On the plan to give more top-ups to the Medisave accounts of pioneers, Mr Lee noted that many of them do not have much in their balances today because the scheme had not yet been introduced when they were working. Their salaries and eventual Medisave contributions were also much lower during their working years.
Overall, Mr Lee said that the package would reduce the medical expenses of these pioneers.
"This is a special package for a special generation. No matter how we design the package, it can never fully reflect the contributions our pioneers have made to our nation," said Mr Lee. "I hope you will accept it as a sincere expression of our gratitude, and that it will be of help to you and your families."
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam will announce the full details of the Pioneer Generation Package when he delivers his annual Budget speech in parliament on Feb 21.