A new mandatory insurance plan — CareShield Life — announced earlier this month by the Government is set to ease the financial burden that severe disability can bring, adding to government and community assistance plans aimed at meeting long-term care needs.
There are at least 10 schemes for longterm care, many administered by the Agency for Integrated Care.
The cost of long-term care should a person be severely disabled is one of two major costs that Singaporeans will face as they live longer and do not have enough babies, said Mr Christopher Tan, chief executive officer of Providend, a financial advisory firm specialising in retirement planning.
The other major cost will be the medical expenses incurred when one gets admitted into a hospital.
Yet, many people do not think much about long-term care insurance, said Mr Alfred Chia, CEO of financial advisory firm SingCapital. “We have seen so many cases where people are hit with disabilities when they least expect it,” he said.
“When disability hits, one loses the ability to earn an income while expenses pile up,” he added.
Help is available
Most of the help needed by these individuals are with basic day to-day tasks, sometimes called Activities of Daily Living, such as bathing, feeding or going to the toilet.
Long-term care assistance schemes can also include help to purchase assistive devices such as motorised wheelchairs and hearing aids; and home health items such as catheters and diapers.
Transport subsidies are also available for wheelchair-using seniors who need to travel to a day rehabilitation centre or a dialysis centre; or those who attend a dementia daycare centre.
These come under the Seniors’ Mobility and Enabling Fund, which was launched in 2011, enhanced in 2013, and boosted by a $100 million top-up announced in February this year.
Even big items such as ramps for flats are eligible for subsidies under the Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) programme by the Housing Board.
In late April, the Government said applications for subsidised ramps for HDB flats with multi-step entrances will open in the second half of the year, enabling elderly wheelchair users to have more accessible homes. The Government will pay up to 95 per cent of the cost of buying and installing such ramps.
Other subsidised elderly-friendly home fittings such as grab bars or slip-resistant treatment for floor tiles are also included in the Ease scheme, which is offered together with HDB’s Home Improvement Programme.
Close to 163,000 households have applied for help under this scheme launched in July 2012 as of March this year.
Apart from such help, a national long-term care insurance will offer basic protection. From 2020, all Singaporeans who turn 30 will be automatically covered by CareShield Life, which offers lifetime cash payouts of at least $600 a month (albeit with higher premiums) when a successful claim is made, instead of $400 a month for six years under ElderShield.
CareShield Life is meant to provide the most basic long-term care coverage sufficient for the lower-middle income group, defined as households with $1,100 per capita household income, said Mr Tan.
Should they become severely disabled and opt for nursing home care that costs $2,400 a month for instance, they can get a 60 per cent government subsidy of $1,400, use their CareShield Life to pay $600 and co-pay the remaining $400 with their savings, he said.
“I think for this group of individuals, CareShield would adequately provide for long-term care. For the higher-income group, they can opt to buy a supplement to improve their coverage,” said Mr Tan.
As CareShield Life is meant to gradually replace ElderShield, the first cohort to be put on it will be all Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 30 to 40 in 2020 – including those with pre-existing disabilities.
Most of those beyond age 40 at that time would be existing ElderShield policyholders, who are eligible to join CareShield Life from 2021. The Ministry of Health is expected to release further details on this, such as the premiums, in the next few months.
Click here for similar job positions in healthcare.