Monday, March 25, 2013

Healthcare & Fertility Policy Options

I have attended the forum on Population White Paper organized by Transitioning.Org yesterday. There are some interesting perspectives and policy proposals made. 

The first one is Universal Healthcare Insurance proposed by Associate Professor Paul. This one is no stranger to me as I have written similar Universal Healthcare Insurance policy although the mechanism is quite different from his proposal. (Mine was modeled along the Canadian/Taiwanese model where Government, Employers and Individuals would take co-responsibility of the insurance scheme.) The most important point raised is that we should empower private GP to play a more important role in our National Healthcare. By implementing a Universal Healthcare Insurance system, people who visit private GPs will also be covered by this insurance scheme. This would mean that there is no necessity for us to build too many Polyclinics (PAP wanted to build 12 more polyclinics and 4 hospitals... I really wonder where they are going to get enough doctors to run them... foreign doctors again?) anymore and recommendation made by private GP should get the same treatment as those fro government polyclinics. 

The second proposal on raising Fertility rate was made by Mr Tan Kin Lian. He proposed that we should do away with that ineffective baby bonus scheme. Instead, we should provide $500 per month to each baby, up to 3 per household, until they are 12 years old. This will give incentive to some mothers to have more babies as this will help to reduce their financial burden drastically if they so decide to have 2 or 3 babies. Based on 30,000 babies per year, the total cost to the government will be about $2.16B per year. Even if we are successful in raising the number of babies to 50,000, the total handout would not be more than $3.6 Billion per year. This amount is manageable in Singapore's context and it would definitely give Singaporeans the confidence to have more babies as most of the cost of taking care of the children in their formative years would be financed by this scheme. 

I believe that PAP government could well afford to finance this scheme and it is just a matter of political will in implementing it. The present "Baby Bonus" scheme has failed miserably because it doesn't provide longer term financial support for Singaporeans in coping with the high cost of child bearing. Imagine that if you are to have 3 children under the age of 12, you will have government financial support of $1500 in total. This is a substantial amount of money that could help the family effectively.

I have thought of such scheme before, providing direct financial support to families with children but I couldn't decide on the numbers and mechanism. Mr Tan Kin Lian has provided a good insight of a possible mechanism for such scheme and it is reasonably within the means of the PAP government to finance it. 

These are the two policy options which interest me greatly as they are quite similar to my previous thoughts on the issues. I hope there would be more discussion and debates on these issues.

Goh Meng Seng

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