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Medi-Shielding the civil service

So I know that civil servants had some pretty good news today on medical benefits but I pity the poor civil servant who has to wade through all the words in MSM to find out what the good news is all about. And what’s in it for them.
So here’s a dumbed-down version:

First, remember that everybody, including civil servants, will get 1 per cent more from employers that will go into their Medisave account from next January. This extra will help to pay for the Medishield Life premiums which will be higher than it is now under the current Medishield.

Second, there are two groups of civil servants.

The first group is a big group, 85 per cent of the 82,000 civil servants. For this group, the G ALREADY puts in extra money – 1 per cent – in their Medisave every month so they can buy current shield plans or other types of approved medical insurance. That is, they have portable medical insurance something which the labour movement wants employers to give to their workers. This means that even if workers quit the service, they can still bring their benefits along with them.

(Okay, I know it’s a far cry from the days when retiring from the civil service still means pretty good or even free access to healthcare. But it’s a lot better than most workers in private sector who are left in the medical lurch when company health benefits expire when they quit or retire)

Anyway, from January, this group will get 2 per cent, capped at $140 a month. This seems a pretty good deal given that monthly premiums will go between $3 and $6 every month when Medishield Life kicks in.

What about those who don’t earn as much as won’t ever be able to get as much as a $140 top-up? If they earn, say, $2,500 a month, the 2 per cent will amount to $48. Well, the G says those who earn $2,500 a month or less will get at least $50.

(Note to civil servants: you get this if you are on the Medisave-cum- Subsidised Outpatient (MSO) scheme)

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The second group is on a different medical scheme, a much older scheme known as Comprehensive Co-payment Scheme which heavily subsidises health-care costs, including inpatient treatment at public hospitals and polyclinics. Mainly for the older and senior people. These people will get 1 per cent extra.

The third group comprised the retired civil servants, some 32,000 people, who are themselves divided into those who are on the scheme above and those with the really, really super duper medical benefits. Those who are on the scheme above will similarly get 1 per cent extra.

The rest will get their Medishield Life premiums paid for by the government. Lucky devils number about 19,200.

I don’t know how much this is costing the G because the news reports don’t say. But it looks like people who enter the job market or change jobs should be looking out for more than just what prospective employers pay in terms of salaries and bonuses. The question to ask should also be: What about medical benefits? This is something most people don’t pay much attention to, especially young job-seekers. They are more interested in the cash as well as whether they need to work shifts or weekends and the number of days of annual leave. I know of enough people who enter retirement with even more worries than while they were working. Suddenly, the comfortable corporate healthcare rug has been pulled out from under them. And they never thought to buy themselves any medical insurance while they are hale and hearty. So they enter retirement with their blood pressure even higher and find that they can’t be insured or would have to pay sky-high premiums if the insurance companies give the nod.

The good thing about Medishield Life is that those with pre-existing illnesses will be covered, yes, at greater cost. It’s relief to the sick although I am also hoping that this wouldn’t suddenly bankrupt us when the time comes to pay for their bills. There is a reason the private sector WON’T insure them.

The private sector should move quickly to having portable medical insurance. The small and medium sized companies have come up to say that it would be tough for them to give up an extra 1 per cent to Medisave accounts; it will add to employment costs. Fair point. I’m not even sure if most already provide medical benefits…

But what about the bigger companies who have company health benefits and group insurance schemes? Is it only inertia that is stopping the move to something that is clearly more beneficial to the individual, both in the long and short term? The issue deserves further airing. It seems the public sector unions were involved in the discussions with the civil service on topping up Medisave accounts. Maybe they should help their private sector union counterparts to come up with a plan to move the big corporations to do the same.

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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