WHEN Emilia Dayana Abdul Hamid needed an operation on her knee in December last year, she opted for the semi-private B1 class at Alexandra Hospital (AH) for her hospital stay.
 
'I thought I was covered by the company's managed health-care scheme (MHS),' said the 25-year-old customer service executive.
 
She was not. Instead, she had to pay the bill herself.
 
Her Medisave account took care of $1,932.59 of the total bill of $3,121.81. The remaining $1,189.22, or 38 per cent, had to come out of her own pocket.
 
Someone in Ms Emilia's shoes this June is likely to be more fortunate. That's when new, higher limits kick in as to how much can be taken from one's health savings account, Medisave, to pay for hospital bills.
 
Ms Emilia would have paid just $222 out of her own pocket - only 7 per cent of her total bill. She would have saved more than $960.
 
Saving such out-of-pocket spending was one of the goals of the Health Ministry's (MOH) budget this year, which is swelling by nearly $1billion to $3.7billion as it anticipates patients needing more help with medical bills.
 
By June, Medisave withdrawal limits of $150 to $5,000 for operations will be raised to $250 to $7,550, reducing 'out-of-pocket expenses of all surgical patients, particularly those in Classes A and B1 and private hospitals', Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament on Monday.
 
He was replying to Madam Halimah Yacob (Jurong GRC), who had asked for the use of Medisave to be expanded, to help cash-strapped Singaporeans.
 
This is the second time in two years that Medisave limits have been raised.
 
In 2007, the withdrawal limits for daily hospitalisation charges were raised to $450.
 
Both measures are aimed at helping middle-income Singaporeans who opt for private A and B1 wards in public hospitals, or the services of private hospitals.
 
The changes in June are unlikely to affect subsidised patients in B2 and C class wards, since the current limits are enough to cover their share of the bill.
 
The most common surgery performed in Singapore is colonoscopy with the removal of polyps or growths. The procedure costs between $900 and $2,000.
 
This is followed closely by coronary angioplasty, a procedure to enlarge the narrowing blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. It costs about $16,000 to $20,000.


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