Straits Times: Workers’ Party takes aim at health care costs

ELECTION 06

It also queries use of means testing for medical services

BY KRIST BOO

THE Workers’ Party (WP) zoomed in on health-care costs at its rally last night and raised questions about the introduction of means testing for health services.

In means testing, patients are charged according to how much they can afford to pay so that subsidies go to the truly needy.

The Government has said that it will introduce means testing either next year or in 2008.

WP chairman Sylvia Lim, who leads the party’s Aljunied GRC team, wanted to know what criteria the Government will use to determine how much subsidy a patient will get.

For example, if house size is used, a person living in a three-room HDB flat is not necessarily less well-off than a five-room flat dweller, she argued.

Using mean household income is also not on because family size differs. Pointing out that some people support parents who are not staying with them, she said: “If we make the same amount of money, it does not mean that we have the same amount of money to spend.”

She argued that health care is a basic service which the Government should provide for everyone. If parents can choose what school to send their children to, why can’t patients choose what class of ward they want to stay in? Also, those who earn more money are already paying more income tax. So why should they not get to enjoy C-class benefits?

She said that experience has shown that means testing requires a lot of paperwork and “tends to delay” medical treatment.

She told the crowd gathered at the field in Hougang Avenue 4: “This is a very dangerous thing the PAP Government is going to introduce in the next two years or so.”

Party chief Low Thia Khiang, who spoke in Teochew and Mandarin, called on voters to use their vote to press the Government for answers.

“Best that they explain now how they are going to make us pay,” he said. “Don’t give them a blank cheque.”

He also asked the Government to provide free lift upgrading so that residents do not have to co-pay.

Mr Perry Tong, who is standing in East Coast GRC, also spoke on rising medical costs.

He suggested that the Government scrap the Goods and Services Tax on drugs, and charge at cost medication for chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

WP candidate Goh Meng Seng responded to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s comments on Friday, when the PM asked if Mr Goh can do the job of Case president Yeo Guat Kwang, who is in the PAP team for Aljunied GRC. The WP candidate told the crowd that transport fares had gone up twice on Mr Yeo’s watch.

Mr James Gomez, who has been in the news for his non-submission of his minority candidate form, was at the rally but did not speak.

His running mate in Aljunied GRC, Mr Mohammed Rahizan Yaacob, however, referred to the issue and told the crowd: “Never mind, everybody makes mistake. James Gomez makes mistakes.”

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