The ElderShield Review Committee was set up in 2016 to review the existing ElderShield scheme. For younger people who are not familiar with this, ElderShield is a national insurance scheme that aims to provide basic insurance coverage to Singaporeans who are in need of long-term care support during their old age.
The current scheme, called ElderShield 400, provides policyholders with a payout of $400 for a maximum of 72 months if they are assessed to have “severe disability” based on the definition as per the scheme.
With the recommendations proposed, we are likely to see some significant changes in the near future for the ElderShield scheme. However, this is an interim recommendation only, with the full recommendations from the committee to be ready in mid-2018.
# 1 Lowering Of Inclusion Age From 40 to 30
Perhaps the biggest surprise, at least for us, was the proposed lowering of the enrolment age for ElderShield from 40 to 30.
What this means is that if the recommendation is accepted, all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents from the age of 30 will be enrolled and covered under ElderShield. It also means that premiums payable will start at age 30, instead of 40.
Though severe disability tends to only occur during old age, the reason given for the lowering of the enrolment age is so that “policyholders will be able to start contributions to the scheme earlier, and in turn ensure that annual premiums are more affordable.”
# 2 Compulsory, Plus Coverage For Pre-Existing Illness
Currently an opt-out scheme, one of the important recommendation being mooted is that ElderShield should be a universal (i.e. compulsory) scheme for future cohort of Singaporeans. This leads to another important implication.
If ElderShield is compulsory, this means it will cover all pre-existing severe disabilities, since no one is excluded. Previously, those with pre-existing severe disabilities, prior to the start of their ElderShield enrolment (i.e. at age 40), are not eligible for coverage.
# 3 ElderShield To Be Administrated By The Government
The current ElderShield scheme is covered by three insurers – Aviva, Great Eastern and NTUC Income. For example, a policyholder who opts out but would like to re-enrolled again is subjected to the approval of these insurers.
Moving forward, it’s being proposed that the Government should be in-charge of the administration for the ElderShield scheme. This will make it similar to the current MediShield LIFE, which is administrated by the Government.
# 4 Subsidies For Lower Income
Similar to MediShield Life, it’s recommended that the government should provide premium support for lower-income Singaporeans and those with financial difficulties, so that no one lose ElderShield coverage due to financial difficulties.
Enhancement For ElderShield Does Not Mean We Leave Things To The Government
Despite the proposed enhancements suggested to be made to the ElderShield scheme, it’s worth remembering that this does not supersede the importance of individuals 1) taking care of their own health and 2) getting their own insurance policies if they feel there is a need.
One of the dangerous misconceptions which arise when the government introduce MediShield Life to replace the existing MediShield in November 2015 was some folks thinking that they should choose it over their existing private integrated shield plan, which was obviously untrue.
The proposed enhancement for ElderShield, if accepted, will continue to be a useful complement to any other disability insurance policies that you may have bought, or are thinking of buying, with a private insurer. In the unfortunate event that a person has an accident leading to disability, either temporary or permanent, he/she can tap on both the ElderShield and his/her own private insurance policy.
At the end of the day, ElderShield being a national healthcare scheme, provides only basic coverage for Singaporeans. For those who are more affluent, it’s worth asking ourselves if we would like additional coverage, on top of what’s provided by the ElderShield scheme.
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