Dear MOH: Medisave Isn’t Helping Those Who Really Need It

Jeff Cuellar



Dear MOH,

You say you believe in ensuring that all Singaporeans have healthcare that’s both high quality and affordable. But how can you keep that promise when our declining, ageing workforce is being gradually replaced by cheap foreigners who pay little taxes?

Think about it, by 2030, nearly 1 in 5 Singaporeans will be 65 or older, and that number will jump to 2 in 5 by 2050! So unless there’s a baby boom of taxpayers in the next few years (yeah, good luck convincing Singaporeans with that one), keeping healthcare affordable will be difficult without *gasp* raising taxes!

But MOH, I believe you’re a bit more sensible than your brother CPF, and that’s why I’m sharing my modest proposal with you. A proposal that helps reduce the financial strain of disadvantaged Singaporeans who feel the true pain of rising medical costs – the ageing Aunty/Uncle with no immediate family, the working class Singaporean providing for a large family, and the homebound elderly with little savings.

Here’s my simple proposal:


Take a Minute to Understand Our Dilemma

Since we were young, we’ve been taught to champion the virtues of self-reliance – and we’ve grown up on stories of how our pioneers transformed Singapore from a small, but strategically important British colony, to a global financial hub.

And that mind-set brought CPF into our world as a way of reducing our dependency on the government for retirement, housing, and healthcare. It’s not a bad system – as long as you earn enough income to stay above the choppy waters of inflation.

But for many Singaporeans, who can barely keep their head above water, it presents a troubling dilemma – many drain their CPF account to keep their homes, sacrificing their “retirement” because they can’t make the $143,000 minimum sum by age 55.

And then there’s Medisave…


Let’s Make a Noble Change to Medisave

Medisave is that 7%-9.5% chunk of your salary (capped at $45,500) that goes towards paying any unsubsidized portion of you and your family’s hospital bills. Unfortunately, it’s also about as difficult to understand as the plot for Inception, with numerous levels of limitations that restrict disbursement according to:

1)      The type of treatment/operation you’ll undergo (if it’s approved by Medisave in the first place).

2)      Daily/monthly/annual disbursement limits on how much of your Medisave account you can use.

Although well-intentioned in keeping you from “draining” your account, these limitations pose two big problems for needy Singaporeans:

While Medisave limitations aren’t a problem for Singaporeans with employers that provide health insurance or Private Integrated Shield Plans, it creates a variety of Catch-22 situations for citizens who aren’t as fortunate.

Now put yourself in the shoes of an ageing Aunty/Uncle, elderly homebound Singaporean, or working class family man/woman.

If you exhaust your daily/monthly/annual limits because you need long-term treatment or rehabilitation, you’ll either need to pay out of pocket or have an immediate family member spare some of his/her Medisave funds to help with the costs.

But what if you can’t make payment because your personal savings and Medisave account are drained? What if your immediate family members are already using their Medisave accounts to cover their family’s medical needs? What if you don’t have any immediate family members to help you?


What I propose is this: Change Medisave so that Singaporeans who aren’t immediate family members can contribute some of their Medisave account to those who need it. That’s it.

You wouldn’t even need to raise taxes to help our less fortunate citizens! You just have to give Singaporeans who can afford the opportunity to share their Medisave with their fellow citizens.

If you can truly afford to share your Medisave funds, whether with a friend or a complete stranger – you should have that option. That’s it.

Personally, if I was a Member of Parliament supporting a certain political party, I would be jumping at the idea! Not because it saves me from having to support unpopular tax hikes, but because it would FINALLY give me the chance to prove to Singaporeans that all that “I care” rhetoric actually means something.

I think the simple action of an “out of touch” politician sharing his Medisave with a less fortunate Singaporean would certainly improve public perception.

But alas, I’m not a politician with an “image” problem. I’m just a simple messenger with an idea to consider. Thank you for your time MOH… if you haven’t crumpled this letter up already.

Yours sincerely,

A Messenger of Singaporean Frustrations


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Image Credits:
Gracie Cannell

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Jeff Cuellar

I'm known by many titles: copywriter, published author, literary connoisseur, ex- U.S. Army intelligence analyst, and Champion of Capua.