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Singapore: Changes to cancer treatment insurance

| 28 Jun 2022

To rein in the soaring costs for cancer treatment insurance, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had announced last August that it will allow insurance to only cover effective as well as cost effective drugs and treatments on a newly created Cancer Drug List.

From September 2022, MediSave withdrawal and MediShield coverage will be limited to drugs and treatments on the Cancer Drug List.

This list was arrived at with input from cancer doctors in the public and private sectors, and are for treatments that have proven both effective and cost-effective. 

Those not on the list cannot be covered. 

At the same time, the MOH has changed the amount of cancer coverage by MediShield Life, the compulsory national health insurance. 

Instead of a flat rate of up to S$3,000 a month, it will cover only the most expensive drug when more than one drug is being prescribed. If it is a combination therapy that is on the list, all the drugs in the combination therapy will be covered with amounts ranging from $200 to $9,600 a month.

The MOH will also raise the ceiling for Singaporeans who can benefit from Medication Assistance Fund (MAF) from a per capita household income of $2,800 to $6,500, with subsidies ranging from 40% to 75%. 

With the changes, MOH said close to 90% of subsidised Singaporean patients who use treatments on the Cancer Drug List will have their cancer drug bills fully covered by subsidy and MediShield Life, subject to co-payment which can be paid using MediSave. 

From April 2023, the rule about insurance coverage for only drugs and their use that are on the Cancer Drug List will be extended to Integrated Shield Plans (IP). 

IP insurers will not be allowed to continue covering patients on treatments that are not on the list. 

About 70% of people here have bought IPs that pay for private care. The MOH said that if IPs continue to cover cancer treatments the way they do now, "claims and premiums will increase unsustainably and become unaffordable to many", according to The Straits Times.