The Merdeka Generation refers to Singaporeans born between 1950 and 1959, or born before 1960 and became citizens before 1997.
The Government has described them as people who "steered the labour force in turbulent times, building a sturdy foundation".
"The men of the generation were among the earliest to serve national service, while some of the women left school early to support their families," it said.
While they contributed greatly to Singapore's growth, they may not have the health savings that younger people do, as Medisave was launched only in 1984 - when those in the Merdeka Generation were aged between 25 and 34.
In other words, there were no compulsory healthcare savings in their early working years.
To honour them, and to help them afford the healthcare they may need, the Government decided to launch the Merdeka Generation Package this year.
From July 1, they were given a one-off $100 top-up in their PAssion Silver Card.
From last month, they began enjoying subsidised care at Community Health Assist Scheme clinics, and bigger subsidies at public sector clinics.
Their Medisave accounts will be topped up by $1,000, disbursed in tranches of $200 over five years.
They will also get a 5 per cent subsidy every year from the age of 60, increasing to 10 per cent from the age of 75, on premiums for the compulsory MediShield Life insurance.
And when CareShield Life - the national disability insurance - is launched in 2021, they will get a $1,500 participation incentive.
WHY IT MATTERS
There are two reasons why this package is a good move.
One is the recognition given to this group of people, who, while not the nation's pioneers, did much to build Singapore at a time when it was still a struggling economy. The other is the importance of healthcare and people's ability to afford it.
With good healthcare, especially screening for early diagnosis and treatment, to prevent the deterioration of chronic conditions, people can remain relatively healthy and independent for far longer.
In the long run, this should translate to lower healthcare spending.
More importantly, it will provide people with a better quality of life.
The 500,000 people in the Merdeka Generation have the choice of going to a private general practitioner or dental clinic near their home and still enjoying the government subsidy, or going to a specialist outpatient clinic at a public hospital or to a polyclinic and getting an even bigger discount on their subsidised medication.
WHAT LIES AHEAD
The move will hopefully result in a healthy ageing population as people will be more willing to get treatment early given the heavy subsidies they enjoy.
It will also be interesting to see the take-up rate among the Merdeka Generation for CareShield Life when it is opened to people aged 40 years or older in 2021.
This long-term care insurance is compulsory for people who are 40 or younger from next year, but will be optional for older people.
The insurance provides at least $600 a month for someone who is severely disabled and cannot perform three of six activities of daily living without assistance.
Since this includes having dementia, the forecast is that a fairly large number of people may qualify in their later years. Given that large numbers are expected to draw down, the premiums, especially for those who join the scheme at an older age, will be pretty high.
To help older people, the Government has offered a subsidy for those in the lower income group, as well as participation incentives for those who join early.
CareShield Life is a good deal for those who are young, and does not make much sense for those who are old. It will be a difficult decision for those in the Merdeka Generation, which is the sandwich group.
As a sweetener, the Government is giving them a participation incentive of $1,500 if they join within the first two years, on top of the $2,500 announced earlier.
This gives the Merdeka Generation who sign up early a total discount of $4,000 off their premiums.
Hopefully, it will encourage more of them to join the scheme and get some financial aid should they become disabled.
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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