When we are young, we feel immortal and invincible, but when we reach a “certain age”, we realise we are, in fact, very mortal. Health insurance then becomes a subject of increased interest, even though we might not want to think about the implications. That’s why, when the government launched CareShield Life in October 2020, I began getting enquiries from several of my Silver friends.
As many of us know, CareShield Life, our national long-term insurance scheme, replaces ElderShield. These schemes are important because, although medical insurance covers hospitalisation and medical treatment, it does not cover the costs associated with being disabled at home; CareShield Life fills that gap.
Both CareShield Life and ElderShield provide financial assistance to disabled Singaporeans and PRs, but CareShield Life provides enhanced benefits, the most important being that, with CareShield Life, pay-outs are higher and there is no limit to how long one may receive the benefits. While on the surface it seems simple, as with most insurance plans, there are many “ifs, ands and buts”.
One of the good things about our government is that it offers a plethora of schemes and programmes to help Singaporeans, particularly those in need. However, many of the schemes are very “calibrated” — and therefore complicated and not so easy to understand.
CareShield Life is no exception. And for Silvers in particular, there are many questions about who is automatically covered, what are the premiums, and what are the benefits. No wonder most of the Silvers whom I have spoken to indicate that they don’t have a clear understanding of it.
Here are some answers to common questions:
For those born from 1980 onwards, there’s not much to think about because enrolment in CareShield Life is both mandatory and automatic. And, if we were born between 1970 and 1979, we will be automatically enrolled if we had been on ElderShield 400 (and not severely handicapped). People in this category who were above 40 in 2020 can choose to stay with ElderShield or switch to CareShield Life.
But for those of us born before 1970 (or born between 1970 and 1979 and were not on ElderShield 400) we have to decide whether to proactively join CareShield Life — and that’s not necessarily an easy decision.
This is probably the most straightforward part: CareShield Life provides $600 a month (as of 2020) to enrolled Singaporeans who have disabilities that make them unable to perform at least three of the six listed “Activities of Daily Living” for as long as care is needed due to the disabilities. That’s much higher than ElderShield benefits. The amount will increase over time, but become fixed once the claim is made. The benefits last as long as the disabilities continue.
The most incomprehensible, and to some, vexing part is the so-called “catch-up” provision which requires those of us joining now to pay for (at least in part) the period in which we did not have coverage. There’s some theoretical justification for this, but it’s way to “chim” for most people to understand, myself included.
Yes. Premiums can be fully payable from your MediSave account. And if you don’t have enough funds in your account, extended-family members can help pay. And, as usual, other financial support is available for those in need.
This is the most difficult question to answer and requires a cost-benefit analysis and perhaps even an actuarial life table — way too complicated for me. Also, there are no right and wrong answers — it’s a matter of how much risk one wants to bear, and how likely we think we will become unable to perform at least three out of the six Activities of Daily Living. At the one end of the spectrum, if you have been on ElderShield 400 for a long time, live in an HDB flat and are Pioneer Generation, the answer would seem to be “yes”. But if you have not been enrolled in ElderShield, live in private housing, and do not qualify for Pioneer or Merdeka Generation benefits, the answer may well be “no”.