Remember the Pioneer Generation package that was rolled out in Budget 2014, to much excitement and debate? 5 years on, there’s finally a sequel: The Merdeka Generation package, the details of which were freshly announced by Heng Swee Keat during Budget 2019.
For the uninitiated, the Pioneer Generation package is a suite of healthcare subsidies and benefits for “founding” Singaporeans born before 1950, who are now 70 years old and above. This much-needed helping hand is still in effect, and it eases (somewhat) the financial burden of old age healthcare for seniors.
But what about those who narrowly missed the Pioneer Generation window? These include Singaporeans now in their 60s, and older Singaporeans who didn’t qualify for the Pioneer Generation package.
Well, the new Merdeka Generation package extends similar healthcare benefits to these 2 groups of people.
Merdeka Generation package at a glance
If you have no time to read the entire article, here are the key takeaways. (Click on the links to jump to the relevant sections, where I’ll elaborate on the eligibility requirements and benefits.)
Who is the Merdeka Generation?
- Singaporeans born in 1959 and before
- You must have obtained Singapore citizenship by 1996
Summary of Merdeka Generation benefits:
- $100 one-time top-up for PAssion Silver card
- $200/year MediSave top-ups for 5 years (on top of GST Voucher MediSave top-ups)
- Auto-enrolment into CHAS scheme + extra 25% off at polyclinics and public outpatient clinics
- Further $150/year discount off CareShield Life for 10 years
- 5% (age 60 to 75) or 10% (age >75) off MediShield Life annual premiums
To, uh, help you remember all 5 Merdeka Generation benefits, the government has thoughtfully produced a video (set to the tune of “Mambo No. 5”). I’ll cover the benefits in the same order they’re numbered in the ad:
What is the Merdeka Generation Package? And who is eligible?
Similar to the Pioneer Generation package, the official state rhetoric for the Merdeka Generation is one best read with epic orchestral music playing in the background:
“The Merdeka Generation grew up with Singapore, worked hard, and laid the groundwork for generations to come. Because of their sacrifices, Singapore stands tall and proud today.”
Past glory aside, the present reality for this generation of seniors is now a struggle thanks to the ever-increasing cost of living and healthcare in Singapore. The $8 billion Merdeka Generation package is meant to help with that.
The Merdeka Generation primarily refers to those born in the 1950s, who are now in their 60s. Eligibility requirements are:
- Your birthday falls between 1 January 1950 to 31 December 1959
- You became a Singapore citizen by 31 December 1996
In addition, Merdeka Generation benefits also apply to seniors aged 70 or older, who were left out of Pioneer Generation due to the restrictive citizenship requirement (the PG package required you to have obtained citizenship by 1986).
- Your birthday falls on or before 31 December 1949
- You became a Singapore citizen by 31 December 1996
- You did not get the Pioneer Generation package
Note that there are no income or asset (e.g. property) restrictions.
If you qualify, you will be notified by April 2019. The government will start issuing Merdeka Generation cards from July 2019.
By the way, if you’re wondering what the word “Merdeka” means: According to Wikipedia, it’s a Malay word that roughly translates to “freedom” (in the “freedom from slavery” sense). This was a battle cry in the pro-independence movement, when Singapore fought to gain independence from our colonial masters.
Benefit #1: $100 one-time top-up for PAssion Silver card
Like most other government packages (apart from the GST Voucher), you don’t get to see the benefits in actual cash. This $100 top-up on your PAssion Silver card as about as close as it gets, though.
First, a note on the PAssion Silver card, if you don’t have one already. This is a card that all Singaporean citizens get once they hit 60 years old – it’s basically your senior citizen concession card. You don’t need to apply or anything; you’ll automatically receive an invite in the mail on your birthday month.
All members of the Merdeka Generation will get a one-off $100 top-up on their PAssion Silver card this year.
Update: You can redeem your $100 at bus interchanges, MRT stations or CCs. Tap your PAssion Card on the Add Value Machine and you should see a “Merdeka” option. Alternatively, you can request the top-up at the ticketing office.
The PAssion Silver card isn’t an accepted payment mode at NTUC FairPrice or, cough, Singapore Pools, but you can use the $100 value on the following:
- Public transport: Similar to an EZ-Link card, the PAssion Silver card can be used to take the bus or MRT to enjoy concessionary rates.
- Community Clubs: You can use the card to pay for activities and/or facilities at CCs, e.g. badminton hall, yoga classes.
- ActiveSG swimming pools: You can also tap your card at the gantry to access public swimming pools in Singapore.
How to get the $100 topped up into your PAssion Silver card
The easiest way to get your $100 top-up is to go to an Add Value Machine at the MRT station. After you place your PAssion Silver card on the screen, press the Merdeka button. Then press “Redeem All”. The transaction should be done within 15 seconds.
If you need more help, you can head to Transitlink offices and selected community centres. See full addresses of top-up locations.
Benefit #2: $200/year Medisave top-ups from 2019 to 2023
Merdeka Generation members are also the lucky recipients of an extra $200 a year for the next 5 years – in the form of top-ups to your CPF Medisave account.
This $200 will happen every July from 2019 to 2023, and is meant to boost your Medisave savings, which are likely to be depleted more quickly in old age.
Don’t know what you can use the Medisave account money for? Here’s a quick and dirty summary:
- Integrated Shield plan (i.e., MediShield Life boosted by private health insurance) premiums
- Hospitalisation (including acute care at public hospitals, surgeries, rehabilitation at community hospitals)
- Outpatient treatment for the major chronic conditions
- Mammograms, colonoscopies and vaccinations
- End-of-life care (in approved hospices or home-based palliative care)
The big catch is that CPF withdrawal limits apply for all of these things, so there’s a chance you will need to fork out the rest out of your own pocket.
You can also use your Medisave money to pay for immediate family members, such as your spouse or children. They can also use their Medisave for your needs as well.
For a more comprehensive guide to using Medisave, read our guide.
Note: If you qualify for the GST Voucher – Medisave top-up, that’s separate from the Merdeka Generation top-up, meaning you get not one but two top-ups.
Benefit #3: CHAS subsidies + 25% off at polyclinics and public outpatient clinics
Apart from the $100 PAssion card top-up, the rest of the Merdeka Generation benefits squarely target the rising cost of healthcare in Singapore.
First, the Merdeka Generation will be added to the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS), which lets lower-income Singaporeans and senior citizens get subsidies at clinics. You get a special card which you flash at participating clinics for subsidised rates.
As with the Pioneer Generation, there are no income ceiling requirements or anything for Merdeka Generation to enjoy its benefits. From 1 Nov 2019 onwards, you’ll be able to get the following subsidies at CHAS clinics by flashing your Merdeka Generation card:
|Type of treatment||Max. subsidy per visit||Annual cap|
|Chronic condition* – simple (just 1 condition)||$85||$340|
|Chronic condition* – complex (multiple conditions or condition with complication)||$130||$520|
|Selected dental services||$16 to $261.50 (per procedure)||–|
* See MOH’s website for a list of the 20 chronic conditions recognised by the government. It includes the big ones like diabetes, hypertension, dementia and so on.
On top of CHAS benefits, the Merdeka Generation also gets an additional 25% off medical bills at polyclinics and public specialist outpatient clinics. These are already subsidised, so after the generous discounts, you’re looking at dramatically more affordable medical bills.
Benefit #4: Extra $150/year subsidy off CareShield Life premiums
Right, so the ad says “$4,000 incentive”, but I looked at the details and it’s actually a discount off your CareShield Life premiums over the course of 10 years. ($400 discount a year x 10 years = $4,000)
FYI, the government was already offering a discount of $250 a year before Budget 2019. So actually, it works out to be an extra $150 a year.
“Wait wait… but $400 discount off what, exactly?”
Just to clarify: You only get the discount if you opt into CareShield Life, which is the nationwide disability insurance that’s meant to defray the costs of getting a severe disability in the future.
For Singaporeans born in 1979 or earlier, it is not compulsory to sign up for CareShield Life, but you can opt in from 2021 to 2023.
As with any other kind of insurance, you have to pay annual premiums from the time you opt in onwards. The annual premium is quite expensive when you get to old age – typically between $1,000 and $2,000. So by dangling the extra discount, the government hopes to motivate more seniors to opt into CareShield Life.
Benefit #5: 5% to 10% off MediShield Life annual premiums
MediShield Life is the government-issued health insurance programme that all Singaporeans and PRs are automatically enrolled in.
It’s entirely distinct from Medisave, in that (a) you need to pay annual premiums to get coverage, and (b) if you make MediShield Life claims for your bills, you’re not limited by the actual amount in your Medisave.
Right now, MediShield Life premiums are very affordable, and the best part is you can pay 100% of it using Medisave. In fact, you have been doing so this whole time – the premium is automatically deducted from Medisave every year. (Which is why you may not even know you have health insurance.)
But the older you get, the more expensive health insurance premiums get.
|Age on next birthday||Annual MediShield Life premiums before subsidy ($)||2019 MediShield Life premiums after subsidy ($)|
|Lower income||Lower-middle income||Upper-middle income||High income|
To help with the increasing cost of health insurance, the Merdeka Generation gets 5% off the annual premium from age 60 to 75. After age 75, your discount goes up to 10%, which is quite a big deal since that’s when the premiums surpass the $1,000 mark.
This Merdeka Generation discount is on top of the existing subsidies based on your income bracket. Again, there’s no income ceiling for Merdeka benefits.
Hmm… Is that all the Merdeka Generation gets?
Wah! If you’re asking that, I gotta hand it to you. The Merdeka Generation gets one of the fattest set of benefits this Budget 2019, but you know what? There’s actually more, because the government is (rightly) paying a lot of attention to older Singaporeans this year.
First, there’s also a one-off CPF top-up in 2019 of up to $1,000 for Singaporeans aged 50 to 64 years old, but only if you have less than $60,000 in retirement savings in your CPF account.
This measure is meant to help those who have not managed to save up enough in their CPF for retirement. For example, Singaporeans who have been been homemakers for most of their lives, or those who left a high-paying job in order to take on caregiver responsibilities at home. (Yes, it’s mostly women taking on such thankless tasks.)
The other big thing would be this year’s GST Vouchers. Yes, in the plural. On top of the usual annual GST Voucher of up to $300, this year there’s also a Bicentennial Bonus voucher, also up to $300.
As even a primary school kid can tell you, this means you can get up to $600 more in cash from the gov this year, depending on your income level and home value. Huat ah!
Not quite a government freebie, but close enough: Merdeka Generation shoppers can now get a 3% discount at NTUC Fairprice on Wednesdays. (Pioneer Generation members currently enjoy 3% discount at Fairprice supermarkets on Mondays and Thursdays, and all shoppers above 60 enjoy 2% discount on Tuesdays.)
Are you happy with the Merdeka Generation package? Tell us what you think in the comments!
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