WP chief calls for permanent healthcare package for seniors
Workers' Party (WP) chief Pritam Singh yesterday called on the Government to introduce a permanent, universal healthcare package for all Singaporeans above 60.
Such a package will inject a powerful message of unity, Mr Singh (Aljunied GRC) said in Parliament during the debate on the 2019 Budget statement.
Reflecting on the Merdeka Generation Package, a highlight of Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat's Budget speech last week, Mr Singh said some have concluded that the package is "pungently timed with the election cycle" and gave off "the odour of an unfair advantage aimed at the electoral prospects of the People's Action Party".
He has also heard feedback about the inherent inequity in such cohort-based healthcare packages for those who miss out.
Mr Singh said there is good reason to believe that a permanent package can be funded by the annual Budget, citing the surplus accrued after the contributions made by Temasek Holdings into the Net Investment Returns Contribution Framework since 2016, and freeing up revenue by partially funding large infrastructure projects through borrowing.
Responding to Mr Singh's proposal, Senior Minister of State for Education and Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said there are already existing structural healthcare subsidies.
He cited the fact that seniors who go to polyclinics get additional subsidies, and the premium subsidies and support given to low and middle income Singaporeans for MediShield Life and the upcoming CareShield Life insurance schemes.
Mr Chee also said that the Government has plans to enhance the coverage of Community Health Assist Scheme to benefit even more Singaporeans, especially for chronic care.
He said it was misleading to link these healthcare packages to election cycles as the packages are funded by the surpluses earned during each term of Government, and it is by design that this cannot be done at the start of the term.
He said: "I wonder why the Workers' Party chose to use such an unpleasant description and to focus on politicising this tribute to our Merdeka generation. The opposition calls on the Government to give more, and yet when the Government gives more to help Singaporeans, the Workers' Party criticises the move as an election tactic."
He added: "We can't have it both ways. Please make up your mind and decide where you stand." - KOK YUFENG