Shielded For Life – Can We Afford Not To Hoard?

About 25,000 Singaporeans and permanent residents with serious pre-existing medical conditions will have to pay additional premiums (+30% for 10 years) for MediShield Life, the Ministry of Health announced on Sept 21 2015. As usual, such news have absolutely no impact on me, but I’m not your “model” citizen. You don’t need to be a psychic to see this coming.

“Gahmen where got so good one.” comes the cynical remark.

So you want to pay more taxes, right? Silence. It’s a powerful rhetorical question, an effective silencer when when directed to a predictably kiasu, kiasi and gian png Singaporean. but what if I say yes? What if I say I don’t mind paying more taxes for a cause I believe in? Silence. Then, I get lynched by a mob of who else but kiasu, kiasi and gian png Singaporeans.


You must think that I’m crazy. Who wants to pay more taxes? It’s my money and my hard-earned money belongs to me. My mother told me not to share it with anyone but family; or not even family. But the curious thing about all these years of being brought up to put the self before all else is that we tend to forget that we ourselves can end up in the unenviable bunch. This is especially true of middle income, overstretched Singaporeans who are now in their 30s and 40s. Their whole game plan rests entirely on their ability to earn more and not less as time passes. Their debt doesn’t bother them until they lose their jobs or fall seriously ill.

I remember many years ago when a professor appear on TV and said that she migrated from Canada because she felt that the tax system there was unfair. The working population was feeding the idling population. While such a situation is certainly not tenable here in Singapore, our beloved nation has swung to the other extreme. Going way beyond financial prudence, people regard their own money as something sacred. Welfare is a dirty word and although grants and subsidies exist, there are numerous barriers or “checks and balances” if you will, to prevent abuse. But as Prof Paul Tambayah once said, no healthy person would abuse the system and go for open-heart surgery just because it’s free. Are we going to write someone off just because he probably got lung cancer from smoking? Are we going to shun someone and deprive him of all aid just because he has AIDS?

SM Goh Chok Tong

Looking at the 25,000 disadvantaged individuals who suffer from chronic illnesses, I’m not surprised that some of them might have already kicked the bucket in November. These may be considered the lucky ones. What about those who have to fork out serious money that they can ill afford to pay for their Medishield Life? Can you imagine that? Don’t just think about old folks pushing cardboard boxes. Think about old folks who are ill and struggling with cardboard boxes and drink cans to pay for their Medishield Life because if they don’t, they will run afoul of the law.

At this point, most of my colleagues must be convinced that I am crazy. Such thoughts never cross their minds which are preoccupied with the latest cars, handbags and customised jewellery. Such thoughts don’t bother them because they are comfortable and cannot imagine themselves ever joining the uneviable bunch. Is that so? The professor who migrated from Canada died in Singapore after a long battle with cancer. Where is her money now? Will she rise from her grave and protest if her money is now feeding idling people?

Imagine, if each of us contributes the price of 5 plates of char kway teow to the right place, then maybe the unfortunate 25,000 Singaporeans won’t need to pay more for their Medishield Life.

In August 2000, in view of the Singapore economy’s growth of almost 10% led by a rapid increase in exports, the salary of the Prime Minister was increased by 14% and those of other ministers by 12%. In response to public disquiet, Goh Chok Tong said that, spread across the population, the rises amounted to about $11 per person, equivalent to “about five plates of char kway teow.


© Chan Joon Yee

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