National Day Rally 2018 – 4 New Housing & Healthcare Schemes Singaporeans Should Know

national day rally 2018

Is it just me or did this year’s National Day Rally feel like a rundown of recent movie blockbusters? “From the creators of SERS, HIP, Pioneer Generation and CHAS, we now have VERS, HIP II, Merdeka Generation and CHAS: The Sequel.”

Here’s a list of the government’s latest reboots, remakes and sequels that PM Lee Hsien Loong announced during the National Day Rally 2018:

New scheme Sequel to What it’s about
VERS SERS Instead of waiting for govt to do en bloc redevelopment (SERS), residents of old flats can now vote to push for en bloc earlier (VERS)
HIP II HIP HDB will upgrade flats twice – HIP at 30 years old, then HIP II at 60 to 70 years old
Merdeka Generation Pioneer Generation Pioneer Generation-like healthcare package for Singaporeans born from 1950 to 1959
CHAS [untitled sequel] CHAS Previously for low-income Singaporeans only, CHAS healthcare subsidies will now be given to all Singaporeans for chronic health conditions

If you’re looking at this table and getting FOMO feels because you totally have no clue what all of those acronyms stand for, don’t worry. Below is an explanation of all of them so that you can throw the latest government acronyms and jargon around like a competent human being.

SERS and VERS – HDB en bloc sale schemes

If you thought that the whole en bloc madness was over and your Facebook friends can stop boasting about how much they made from selling their vintage condo units… hah! You’re wrong!

There’s now a scheme (two schemes, to be exact) for HDB flats so that they can be “sold” back to the government before their 99-year leases are up, so you can bet on hearing more butchered variations of the French term “en bloc”.

The current scheme, SERS (Selective En Bloc Redevelopment Scheme), is where the government buys back old HDB blocks with “high development value” and compensates displaced residents. Residents can be rehomed in a new flat nearby with a fresh 99-year lease, available to them at a discount.

Getting SERS is like walking downstairs one fine day and seeing your about-to-be-scrapped car turn into a brand spanking new one with a fresh COE. Unfortunately, only an estimated 5% of HDB flats are eligible for the scheme.

To supplement SERS, VERS (Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme) is a new option for residents of ageing flats.

Imagine this: Instead of praying fervently to Tua Pek Kong that your flat will be selected for SERS, now you can proactively lobby everyone in your block to vote “yes” to an en bloc sale ahead of schedule, before the 99-year lease is up.

VERS applies to flats aged 70 years old and above, so it will kick in only in about 20 years or so. The estates to watch are Marine Parade, Bedok and Ang Mo Kio, which HDB built in a rush in the 1970s and 1980s to meet rising demand.

But before you get too excited, the compensation for VERS won’t be as lucrative as SERS. More details will only be available after HDB has worked it out.


HIP and HIP II – 2 upgrades for every HDB flat

Another move on the housing front is a new and improved HIP (Home Improvement Programme).

For the uninitiated, HIP is one of HDB’s many acronyms, alongside other upgrading programmes like IUP, MUP, LUP and SUP. (Just kidding about that last one, it’s not real.)

Under HIP, the HDB carries out major maintenance work on entire HDB blocks, such as fixing structural cracks and deteriorating concrete, and upgrading the electrical wiring. Residents can also opt to add on simple renovations like a bathroom facelift at a subsidised fee.

During the National Day rally, PM Lee announced that HIP will now be applicable to HDB flats built anytime up to 1997. But it won’t all happen at once – upgrading is done only around the time the block turns 30 years old.

He also announced the sequel to HIP – HIP II (seriously, that’s what it’s called) which is another round of upgrading works when the HDB flats reach 60 to 70 years old. This should happen in about 10 years’ time.

When HDB flat turns Upgrading programme
30 years old HIP
60 to 70 years old HIP II

We don’t know what exactly HIP II will comprise, but it should be fairly similar to what’s offered for HIP. Anyway, this means that there will be two points at which HDB flats will be upgraded.

Just like how ageing tai tais go to Korea for “upgrading programmes”, these scheduled upgrades should (hopefully) help retain the flats’ market value as they get older.


Pioneer Generation and Merdeka Generation

Remember the Pioneer Generation package, which was launched in 2014 ahead of the 2015 General Elections? This package of old age healthcare benefits included Medisave topups, subsidised medical bills and MediShield Life premiums, plus disability assistance.

Sounds great, except no one really knew who qualifies as Pioneers. The Pioneer Generation is sometimes defined as those “aged 16 and above in 1965” and sometimes “aged 65 and above in 2014″. Uh… sorry, maths is hard.

To clarify, Pioneer Generation refers to people born in 1949 and before, who obtained Singapore citizenship by 1986.

Those who narrowly missed the age window now have no cause to sit around in kopitiams complaining, because PM Lee announced an all-new Merdeka Generation package for Singaporeans born from 1950 to 1959.

Year of birth Which group you belong to
Any year up to 1949 Pioneer Generation
1950 to 1959 Merdeka Generation

Similar to the PG package, the Merdeka Generation package will include Medisave topups, subsidised medical bills and MediShield Life premiums, and payouts for long-term care. The actual amounts will be smaller than that of the Pioneer Generation package though. Details will only be announced next year.

For an idea of what the Merdeka Generation might be getting, read our guide to Pioneer Generation benefits here.


CHAS and CHAS: The Sequel – healthcare subsidies for everyone

Many working Singaporeans are fortunate enough to be covered under either workplace or personal health insurance, or else earning enough to not feel the pain of forking out cash for your medical bills.

However, those in lower income families do, which is why there’s CHAS (Community Health Assist Scheme) in place to subsidise the cost of their medical and dental bills.

The healthcare scheme is open to those whose average household monthly income is less than $1,800 per person. Those eligible get a CHAS card to present at participating clinics and healthcare centres, where they can get a discount off their bills.

During the National Day Rally, PM Lee announced CHAS will be opened up to Singaporeans of all income levels to use for treating the chronic health conditions listed under MOH’s Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP). These include diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and other common diseases.

However, those who don’t fall under the lower income category probably won’t get subsidies for common illnesses (e.g. cough), dental treatments or health screenings. Also, the subsidies are tiered depending on your income. The full details have yet to be announced.

For more details on the scheme, read our guide to CHAS Card eligibility and benefits here.


Bonus: 5 money-saving hacks from National Day Rally 2018

Apart from some key housing and healthcare schemes, the general cost of living in Singapore was a major issue on the National Day Rally agenda.

Sadly, the government can’t control the cost of our water or electricity bills – PM Lee admitted that much. However, the Prime Minister did have a few money-saving tips to share. (He might be making millions a year, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a thrifty tip or two up his sleeve…)

Eat at hawker centres: There will be 13 new hawker centres to be built in the future, so Singaporeans can still save money by eating cai png. Also, Singapore might nominate our hawker food to be on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Go to the polyclinic: There will be more polyclinics in Kallang, Eunos, Sembawang and Bukit Panjang (by 2020) and Tampines North and Nee Soon Central (2023) to meet demand for subsidised general healthcare.

Sell your HDB lease back to HDB: PM Lee mentioned a possible expansion of the current lease buyback scheme, where elderly HDB owners can sell the last bit of their flat’s lease back to the HDB in exchange for cash. No details as yet though.

Use [email protected]: PM Lee’s #1 money-saving tip for Singaporeans is to not use data to watch movies when you’re out of the house, and to use [email protected] instead.

Don’t buy expensive milk powder: PM Lee said he didn’t drink any fancy fortified organic grass-fed milk powder when he was a baby, and he encourages Singaporean parents to do the same. Hey, if it’s good enough for Lee Hsien Loong, it should be good enough for your baby.

What do you think of the National Day Rally 2018 announcements? Share your thoughts in the comments!