THE Health Minister yesterday assured senior citizens that they would always receive the health care they need without having to worry about whether they can afford to pay their medical bills.
"The important message is that our senior citizens will always receive the necessary health-care services without worry about affordability," Mr Gan Kim Yong said at a clan event.
His remarks came a day after the Workers' Party (WP) slammed the Government at an election rally for not doing enough to help the elderly.
The minister added: "I encourage all these elderly folks... if they have problems with their bills, do let the hospitals, public institutions, health-care institutions know.
"We'll find different ways to help them."
Medifund Silver, for instance, is a scheme for needy patients aged 65 and older, he cited.
"We also have given the hospitals a lot of flexibility in terms of eligibility criteria, so that they can reach out to more elderly who are in need of support for their healthcare needs," the minister added.
He also urged caution in response to WP candidate Lee Li Lian's suggestion that those older than 75 should be allowed to use their Medisave without restriction.
"We have to be mindful these are very important savings of the elderly, and they will continue to need the savings as they grow older," the minister said.
Mr Gan, who was attending an event at the Singapore Foochow Association, said he would take the opportunity to share with those present what the Government had done for the elderly.
Speaking to reporters, he listed five policies to show that the Government is helping the old.
The Enhancement for Active Seniors (Ease) scheme in which facilities such as grab bars and slip-resistant tiles are fitted in homes at highly subsidised rates;
Raising the age limit for MediShield, the national health insurance scheme, to 90 this year;
A one-off Medisave top-up of up to $400 to help with MediShield premiums;
An annual Medisave top-up of up to $450 under the GST Voucher scheme;
Expanding the renamed Community Health Assist Scheme to let patients get subsidised outpatient treatment for acute and chronic conditions and basic dental services at participating general practitioners and dental clinics.
Mr Gan said he would also let clan associations and community leaders know that the Government will continue to do more for seniors.
"I encourage the community and clans to continue with their many good programmes for the senior citizens," he added.
Separately, Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, who was in Punggol East to accompany PAP candidate Koh Poh Koon on a walkabout, defended the Government's track record.
The former Minister of State (Social and Family Development) gave several examples. One was grants for less well-off households employing maids to take care of elderly family members.
Announced last year, the estimated five-year budget for this is $25 million.
Another instance is the Government saying last October that it would spend $500 million until 2016 to ramp up the number of nursing homes, senior care centres and senior activity centres.