Sunday, April 29, 2012

Eldershield review needs to be calibrated very carefully: Gan Kim Yong

SINGAPORE: Health Minister Gan Kim Yong has stressed that the government needs to "calibrate very carefully" any review to the ElderShield scheme - a severe disability insurance scheme.

Mr Gan was speaking on the sidelines of a community event where a new study was released, showing the benefits of brisk walking.

The study shows that members of Singapore's National Brisk Walking Programme are about eight per cent fitter compared to the general population.

Conducted by the Health Promotion Board, the survey covered 1,236 participants during a one-year period from September 2010 to September 2011.

Research has found that brisk walking regularly could help to decrease the risk of suffering from chronic conditions -- such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and breast cancer -- by almost 50 per cent.

Brisk walking can also help to prevent dementia and osteoporosis, and help manage one's weight in tandem with a healthy diet.

The National Brisk Walking Programme was introduced in 2009 to get Singaporeans who had a sedentary lifestyle exercising.

There are now 700 brisk walking clubs island-wide, and since the start of the programme, the number of participants has ballooned by 25 per cent to some 100,000 people.

Members of the brisk walking club get about 230 minutes of physical activity each week, the survey reported.

The amount is about three times more than the national average of about 80 minutes per week for seniors, who make up 60 per cent of the participants.

Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong said this was an encouraging sign, in view of Singapore's ageing population.

Chairman of the National Briskwalking Workgroup and Mayor for the North West District, Dr Teo Ho Pin, said there are now plans to reach out to more people.

"We are still trying to reach out to more minority groups especially our Indian friends because we still haven's attracted a lot of our Indian and Malay friends to join us in our brisk walking clubs," said Dr Teo.

Separately, Mr Gan also touched on calls to enhance Eldershield -- a severe disability insurance scheme that provides basic financial protection to those who need long-term care.

Some observers have said that current payouts are insufficient given high medical bills.

In 2007, the government increased the Eldershield monthly payout from S$300 to S$400, and the maximum payout period from 60 to 72 months.

Industry players have said the payout is insufficient, as patients' bills are at least twice that amount.

However, Mr Gan reiterated that there would be trade-offs accompanying any enhancement in payouts.

"We have to bear in mind that with enhancement, the cost of insurance will also go up," Mr Gan said.

"We'll have to calibrate very carefully to ensure that Eldershield remains affordable and at the same time the benefits remain effective to help our seniors."

A review of the ElderShield scheme is expected to take place in 2013.

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