Why can’t we also have free medical treatment?

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“Look at how much I was asked to pay for my medicine. For $299, the pharmacist charged C$0.01!!! – One cent! When I had my stroke in May 2012, the three weeks hospital stay at Vancouver General Hospital, specialist treatment and three months of therapy sessions cost me nothing – zero!”

Sq Quitters

Ex-Singaporean Wing, having spent his entire economically active life here, has migrated to Canada enjoying his retirement there. He had a stroke recently and was warded in a government hospital in Canada. He claimed that he did not pay a single cent for his week long hospital stay and total treatment costs. He only paid one cent for his medicine. Not only was he shocked, so are we! It’s just simply incredible. But then, he got the receipts and invoices to prove that he is not lying through his teeth. Remember someone said he only paid $8 for his heart by-pass? Is he referring to himself only or the general public? Was he telling the whole truth?

Well, I do not know about the $8 heart by-pass anecdote. But I did come across the shocking truth about our medical system. Let me relate my mother’s recent case.

My mother complained of breathlessness recently. A heart specialist namely Dr Goh YS from Changi Hospital was recommended to her by a relative (mother’s younger brother). She was charged consultation fee more than S$400 in cash! It’s under private treatment – non-subsidy even though it’s a govt hospital cuz she requested for this specialist (recommended by her brother). It’s only less than half an hour of consultation with no medicine prescription.

According to my mother, the nice elderly Dr Goh after examining her and looked through her past medical records and reports which she paid for from Tampines Polyclinic, referred her to more cardiac tests in the same hospital on her next appointment.

When she received the bill, she nearly collapsed of “heart attack!” She was told that if she did not request for any specific doctor, then the consultation fee is usually less than S$100 after govt’s “massive subsidy”!

If you are sick and not feeling well in the middle of the night, you go to any A&E govt hospital, you will be charged a minimum of S$95! The govt polyclinics only operate office hours. The govt says that this is to prevent abuse of A&E in govt hospitals where they cater to more urgent life threatening medical cases. But if you are sick and not feeling well in the middle of the night, where do you go if you don’t go to the A&E? Private clinic or private hospital? Could we afford?

In Wing’s case, if he’s treated in a govt hospital here instead of Vancouver General Hospital in Canada, his MediSave account in his CPF could be wiped out! After he has used up his MediSave, they will ask for his spouse’, children’s or siblings’ MediSave and so on until all their CPF accounts are depleted! If you want any subsidy or help, you will have to go thru so many means testing and jump over many more hurdles before they finally throw some subsidy at you.

We are the third richest country, some say the richest country in the world, yet the government hospital operates as public and private entitities in a brilliant dual system. If you pay, you will get the best treatment. If you don’t pay enough, you will get sidelined – only perfunctory checks are done! They are always asking how are you going to pay for the medical costs the moment you first step into the government hospital. Every citizen knows that. I ever experienced that when I brought my mother few years back for knee replacement surgery in Singapore General Hospital.

The common saying amongst Singaporeans is that “it is better to die than getting warded” in a hospital is not without it’s basis. But if follow Sg Quitter Wing who is living in Canada, that statement “it is better to die than getting warded” is unheard of there. I could imagine that Wing also got a benign heart attack of a gentle and compassionate kind – unlike my mother, when he was told that he need not pay a single cent for his week stay in hospital!

I wonder why Canada could treat her citizens at “zero” medical costs for a week stay in hospital due to a stroke when our medical costs keep going up – galloping higher and higher? Our medisave account in our CPF also keep on increasing every year when our pay has not gone up at all in more than 10 years – as in my case. We are constantly reminded that medical costs will be more and more expensive and that we need to buy more and more medical insurance premiums even though our medisave in our CPF account keep increasing! WTF!

In fact, I have to spend nearly $800 using CPF savings for my father’s NTUC medishield plus “rider” cash of more than $250 yearly. If include myself, my mother’s, son’s and my wife’s extra medishield yearly payments, it’s easily nearly $3,000 off my CPF savings when my annual total CPF total contributions is less than $15,000! Compared to Canada which is not richer than us, is it not illogical? If it is not madness, then pray tell me what is it?

Like most Singaporeans, we are not asking for free handouts. We are not expecting “zero” payment for medical costs. We believe in paying cuz nothing in this world is free. But we also do not expect medical costs to bankrupt us, wiping away all our life savings! My mother’s recent 20 mins of consultation costing more than $400 is an example of the kind of medical costs I’m referring to that will bankrupt us.

Do I have enough for the min sum? Is there any more cash left for me when I retire at age 55 yrs or 62 yrs? What with the HDB loan that I’m paying? Do we benefit from our country’s economic miracle? Ultimately who benefits from this obsessive GDP growth? As citizens, we are still left with nothing after working our entire productive lifespan here. Add to that, there is still this statement that it is better to die than to get warded in our government hospital when money gives you access to better medical treatment. Your citizenship status does not matter here. Unless, you are lucky enough to be like Wing who quits early and is now enjoying his golden years in a foreign land, we are really gone case. There is no hope or future for us here. We are doomed forever.

Yet, this govt is giving S$5 billion loan to IMF, S$30 million a year to foreign scholars, nearly S$400 million spent on Children’s games, S$10 million for new citizens integration programmes, S$2,200 foldable bicycles and few hundreds of dollars of Herman Miller office chairs costing tens of thousands of public money! Shouldn’t public money be used wisely? If only all these monies were diverted to medical spending, do we need to pay through our nose? It pains my heart. Do you feel the same way?

Another Bum Deal?

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25 Responses to Why can’t we also have free medical treatment?

  1. Lian Seng says:

    Sure if you want to pay the kind of income tax Canadians pay you can get “free” medical treatment. You’ll feel happy. But put yourself in the shoes of Canadians. Imagine paying all that national, provincial, sale and goods & services tax through your nose, then have some opportunist from foreign lands (in this case some Singaporean who clearly deserve nothing to be granted residence in Canada) come and benefit from it all. Is this what you want? Will you be happy then? Dig deeper, don’t be so shallow.

    • Padaly says:

      I know what you are saying. I understand perfectly what you are saying. I’m not that “shallow” as you’ve alleged. If you only care to read my post again, I did say that nothing is for free. Most locals do not wish to have freebies or handouts. We are not beggars. I’m just saying ours is too expensive. We spent too much on other things instead of taking care of our citizens’ escalating medical expenses. Only when we have reached the stage of really affordable health care, then we could consider spending on other areas to “punch above our weight!” Until such time, it’s better that we look after the welfare of our people first. I hope I’ve made myself clear to you.

      • Lian Seng says:

        ” I’m just saying ours is too expensive. ” Really? Look at the headline of your post: “Why can’t we also have free medical treatment?” If this was a bulletin board, the admin would have kicked you out for trolling.

        • Padaly says:

          I agree with you the post headline is inappropriate. I’m merely asking a provoking question. If one reads its entirety, I did mention we in Sg are not asking for freebies. That’s the main point. Why take issue with bits and pieces without looking at the main argument of the entire article. Taking cheap potshots will not cover the facts. Hear from the protagonist himself. Do you fault his reply? Do you doubt him? Is he lying thru his teeth? Let the readers decide.

    • patriot says:

      Haha……
      Don’t think the Canadian Authority allowed Mr Wing to take free ride. He must have had fulfilled the conditions to be resident there and had also qualified himself to the welfare there. Mr Wing is certainly not a parasite and the Canadian Authority is never blind nor shallow.

      patriot

    • Lian Seng is totally ignorant about Canadian Healthcare system. It is offered to all Permanent Residents, Canadian Citizens and also Singaporeans working for Singapore companies based in Canada. Check with those Singaporeans working for Singapore companies with offices based in Canada. Just because Singapore does not provide free healthcare, it does not mean the system is bad. Please “dig deeper and don’t be so shallow.”

      • Lian Seng says:

        I’m not ignorant about the high taxes native Canadians pay so that those non-Canadians not ignorant about how to take advantage of all the benefits can avail themselves of all those goodies. And where and when did I say that Singapore system is bad because it is not free? Yes dig deeper, but not your own grave please.

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  3. lawless says:

    Simple solution: sell your HDB flat for a profit, move to Malaysia, Batam, Vietnam or Thailand and enjoy the lower medical costs there. Singapore is not the place for common folks to retire, in case you have not realised this hard truth.

  4. reddotsg says:

    I believe residents in Canada, have to pay an insurance premium for medical coverage, but its much less than making multiple payments for each visit, uncle cheong pls correct me if i am wrong, its been such a long time since i was there.

  5. In his 1996 National Day speech, then Prime Minister Goh said, “People often want the government to assume the full burden of the cost of medical care and provide treatment free to Singaporeans. Because of the painful lessons learned in other countries we have not done this. All the countries which have done this—Britain, France, Germany, Canada, and Communist China—have failed. Their systems break down as people overuse so-called ‘free’ health care, which they actually pay for indirectly through higher taxes. Their health services deteriorate. Waste and inefficiency become endemic. Now these countries are forced to cut back on services, introduce cost controls, and reform the system.

    This is the biggest lie that Singapore leaders have repeatedly spin about Universal Healthcare.
    Canadians are proud of the country’s healthcare system. It has been functioning well for decades with no signs of failing. The notion that Singaporeans pay one of the lowest tax in the world is a myth to fool Singaporeans. In reality Singaporeans pay much higher taxes than other developed countries like Canada.

    Consider a person making $6,000 a month in Singapore and a person making a similar amount in Canada. Let us say the person in Singapore pays zero tax and the person in Canada pays his maximum without any deduction of 29.7% tax. Assuming both have a working life of 40 years and a life span of 85 years.

    The person in Singapore pays nothing since we assumed his tax to be zero.
    The person in Canada would have to pay based on annual salary of $72,000 at 29.7% = $21,384. Based on a working period of 40 years the Canadian would have to pay a total of $855,360. It should be less if deductions are taken into consideration but we give the advantage to Singapore to minimize arguments. The Canadian tax does seem high to Singaporeans. However when all the cleverly hidden taxes are taken in consideration, Singaporeans are paying more in taxes but not getting the social benefits enjoy by Canadians.

    List of Singapore hidden taxes that Canadians do not pay::

    1. COE – $60,000 every ten years assuming that a Singaporean changes his car every 10 years.
    40 years needs to buy 4 COE = $240 ,000.
    2. Cost of car like Honda Civic – $75,000 in Singapore vs $25,000 in Canada.
    4 cars in forty years at the difference of $50,000 = $200,000
    3. Road tax – $1,300 per year for 40 years = $52,000
    4. Higher petrol price – $100 extra a month for 40 years = $48,000.
    5. ERP – $100 extra a month for 40 years = $48,000.
    6. Maid levy – $300 per month for 20 years (assuming a family only has the maid for 20 years
    instead of 40 years or more) = $72,000.
    7. General medical bills for 85 years at $1,000 a year = $85,000. (less than $100 a month)
    8. Cost of housing, the difference between a similar house in Singapore vs Canada is $300,000 to as high as $1 million and more. We shall take the lower end of the difference = $300,000.
    9. The water/gas/electricity bills are only one-third of Singapore’s making a savings of at least $102,000 based on a saving of $100 per month x 85 years.
    The total savings for a Canadian is at least $1,147,000 or more depending on how many cars, maids and children he has.
    This amount is more than adequate to offset the Canadian tax of $855,360 at 29.7%.

    In addition the following is a list of social benefits that Singaporeans do not enjoy::

    1. “Milk money” of $250 each child receive a month from the government from the day the child was born until age of 18 years – $250 x12 x 18 years = $54,000 for one kid. Two kids = $108,000.
    2. Old age pension plus assisted income for retirees without any income, a retiree gets $1,250 or more a month until death. Assuming the retiree lives for 20 years = $300,000.
    A couple could get a combined retirement income of $2,500 a month. even though they may not have been working. The total receivable for 20 years would be $600,000.
    3. Retirees travel for free on all public transportation with limited black out time on weekends, i.e. trains, buses, ferries. Some of the ferry rides cost more than $100 per trip. Assuming a retiree saves $150 a month for transportation – 20 years of retirement = $150 x 12 x 20 = $36,000.
    4. Retirees can study in universities for a token fee of less than $100 per year.
    5. Unemployment insurance which a citizen can claim when he/she is out of a job. It is common for a person to be out of job for 6 months in his 40 years of working life – $36,000.
    6. Free treatment of severe illness like cancel, liver or kidney failures – $200,000 or more.

    Depending on the choice of lifestyles and individual health conditions, the Canadian tax system has a much better advantage when compared with the Singapore tax system even though Singapore tax rate is low.

    It is common knowledge that an average Singaporean cannot afford to get sick because the medical bills would bankrupt his/her entire savings. This should never happen to the richest country in the world!!!

    In Canada, Healthcare service providers will do their best to guide and help patients without asking for payment as all citizens and permanent residents are covered by the government.
    In Singapore, it is the opposite, the service providers will make sure that potential patients can pay for their services or treatments. It is typical “kiasu” Singapore culture.

    The moral of the story is that we should not be fooled by statistics and world rankings. Singapore is ranked the richest country in the world with the highest per capita vs Canada at eleventh place with a lower per capita of $39,033. Do Singaporeans really feel richer when most Singaporeans have constant anxiety over inadequate savings for retirement, medical bills, being homeless, etc.

    Most Canadians enjoy their retirement with peace of mind of having Universal Healthcare and retirement benefits. Canadians can walk into clinics or hospitals without any money in their pockets and be treated. On the other hand Singaporeans must have adequate funds before they step into clinics or hospitals.

    Wing Lee Cheong
    Vancouver, BC.

    • All residents – Canadian citizens, permanent citizens and foreigners working for companies who offices are based in Canada has to pay insurance premium. It ranges from $100 to $150 per month depending your status, i.e married, single, retired, minimum salary, etc.
      For example I paid $55 per month because I am retired. (maybe higher now – possibly $60)

    • Stayer says:

      Of course quitters who domicile themselves in a foreign land and willing to be second-class citizens will sing praises of those who throw bones at them.

      • reddotsg says:

        Its not about quitting, its about treating people right, if uncle cheong wasn’t an ex Singaporean, and was born n bred in Canada and wrote this article, would your comments still be the same?

        • No wonder Singaporeans are a nation of complainers. There is nothing that is good enough for them. Quitters can have a good life overseas, they are called second-class citizens. When quitters are suffering overseas, Singaporeans are glad. What kind of a sick society are they living in? I am glad our family left that asylum.
          There is no reason for Singaporeans to rejoice because they are not respected by FT and their own government within their own country. This is worse than having bones thrown at them. Most are too dumb to see what is happening to them. The smart Singaporeans are immigrating, leaving “stayers” behind to suck up to the FT.

          • Stayer says:

            What a loser.

          • Hypocrite says:

            So if “quitters can have a good life overseas” even though they are second-class citizens – fine with me, it’s personal choice. Plus the “smart” Singaporeans are immigrating (sic)? All sounds good. If that is the case, why can’t these ‘smart’ genius let go? Seems like they live ‘happily’ overseas but continue to complain about the Singapore they have left behind.

    • Reddotsg says:

      May i have your permission to publish above comment on my blog?

  6. PS For those people earning less than $10,000 or $20,000 the insurance premium is free.

  7. You rather spend your own money on yourself (Singapore system) or would you rather hand the money to somebody to spend on somebody else (Canadian)?

  8. Saycheese says:

    The $400 charged by Dr Goh YS for 20 minutes of specialist consultation is cheap when compared to what our President is paid to cut ribbons. What is the Canadian PM’s salary – compare that to our MP’s allowance and you will know why Sg quitter’s medical cost is so low.

    How much are you paying for the 99 year lease of the pigeon-hole-in-the-sky?

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  12. patriot says:

    Singapore is a home not made for living.

    It is for showcasing, adorned full with ornaments, there is nothing organic in it.

    The inhabitants are pretentious, loud like
    machines not well assembled and robotic.

    Singapore is just a safe vault for the rich to keep their wealth and nothing more.

    patriot

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