How many people get into debt because of medical expenses?

I refer to the article “‘I don’t know how to face my children’: How one woman fell prey to 50 loan sharks” (Channel NewsAsia, Jun 7).

It states that “”I had gotten married without savings and I needed a house to stay,” Madam Tan, who is in her early 40s, told reporters at the Police Cantonment Complex on Thursday (Jun 7).

As she had to pay a cash premium for the house, she took out a S$10,000 bank loan. Over the years, when her kids needed hospital treatment, she maxed out her credit cards to pay the bills.

In 2010, her husband lost his job which pays roughly S$3,000 a month. When Madam Tan, who works in an administrative job, couldn’t service the bank loan and credit card payments, her furniture was seized – twice.”

In this connection, according to the article “How to Get Out of Debt” (The Finder, Jul 31, 2015) – “People generally spend more during festive seasons and during periods of major sales,” says Tan Huey Min, general manager of CCS. Other reasons include suffering a pay cut or job loss (one in two clients), medical reasons (one in four), extending a loan to others (one in five) or due to their business (one in five).”

According to the article “Debt woes dip as economy picks up” ( April 1, 2011) – Of those who sought help from Credit Counselling Singapore (CCS) for medical debts, 20.9 per cent were Singaporeans and 36.6 per cent, permanent residents (PRs). Aren’t you rather surprised to see that last year (2010), medical expense was one of the top reasons for indebtedness?

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has regularly maintained that health care is affordable in Singapore, under our 3Ms (Medisave, MediShield  and Medifund).

So, why do the CCS statistics seem to indicate otherwise?

I understand that the last reported statistics (2011) from Credit Counselling Singapore was that about 21 per cent of Singaporeans who sought credit counselling were due to medical fees.

According to a reply in parliament – the public hospitals were owed $48 million in arrears last year (2011), accounting for 136,000 bills outstanding for two months or more, despite writing off $90 million in FY 2008, FY 2009 and FY 2010, public hospitals’ patients still owed $110 million in arrears (“Data that may help in review of healthcare system“, Business Times, Mar 7, 2012).

According to the article “More debtors seek help from Credit Counselling Singapore” (Business Times, Oct 28, 2014) – “In good and bad times, however, there will always be individuals who will get into debt problems because of overspending or other factors like a bout of unemployment or medical expenses.”

So, is healthcare really affordable in Singapore?

What do you think?


Leong Sze Hian




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21 Responses to “How many people get into debt because of medical expenses?”

  • madonlah:

    subsidise patient?good luck 2u.

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  • NajibRosmah cum HLHC:

    I hope that those people who run the hospitals and who sets the rules to our CPF would search their conscience and ask themselves where their heart is. And those with a religion, to recall what their religion teaches them. Please you people, ask yourselves how you’re treating your fellow human beings. Are you bloodsuckers?

    My aunt was hospitalised for one day staying in a B2 ward. Her medical fee was more than $1k. After subsidies, she was asked to pay $800+. But what shocked her was when she received a letter telling her that she’s unable to use medisave to pay for the full amount. Apparently there’s a cap on how much one can use from your own medisave account. She was told to pay $400+ either in cash or cheque bcos “Medisave withdrawal limit has exceeded”.

    Gosh! 1 day’s stay in the hospital going through some tests costs more than one thousand dollars! Some more cannot use your own medisave to pay for your total bill. My aunt says luckily she can afford to pay the rest, what if someone else can’t?

    My questions, why are we not allowed to use our own medisave money to pay for our medical expenses? Why must there be a limit? Who sets this limit? Then what’s our money sitting in our medisave accounts for? To buy ourselves a coffin or to buy coffins for the MIW? I’d be more than willing to chip in for the latter.

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  • My $8 heart bypass:

    It’s affordable, especially when you only need to pay $8 for your heart bypass op.
    But this only applies to the elites and PAPIGS and their Cronies, so what’s a few thousand $$ for your medical fees when you are seeing millions $$$ in your CPF statement.

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  • ganeshsk:

    The $90 million is excess super profits hence writing off was no big deal.

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  • LIONS:

    As i have said here a few times,many SENIORS who are taken ill n need surgery n hospitalisation,had already BEEN FORCED TO SELL THEIR HDBs in order to PAY EXPENSIVE HOSPITAL BILLS.

    Many more sgs will become homeless.
    Yet,this same daft lee ah long is thinking of TAXING THE JOBLESS N RETIREES MORE VIA G$T as these sgs have NO INCOME to tax from?
    How schemeful this daft son can get.
    Meanwhile,claim ADULATION FOR HIMSELF by squandering our money on NON-SGS?


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  • RicMansLand:

    Govt claims of affordable care is glossy untrue. If you want decent care, and by decent it means proper care by a specialist, cost goes up the roof. Most will not be qualified for subsidise care because of stringent means testing. Those sandwiched class, the vast majority, will get less than decent care and squeezed(avoid the Hospitals and wait for your situation to deteriorate)) if your financial situation is mediocre.

    If you have the money, and I mean money no issues, healthcare in Singapore is really very good. But woes to you if you have to settle for mediocre car – very frustrating. And also, there are many costly side charges lay upon patients you have to watch out for.

    Singapore is not a place for the mediocre because unless you are stupid, which most are, you can be as happy as a religious nut case who tithe to wolves in sheep clothing.

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  • Be honest:

    To CPF Board, Gov of SG..
    Stop shifting the goal post to cover the ‘pot holes’.

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  • Bogeygranny:

    Healthcare is so affordable, you want to avoid their SHOWY healthcare facilities or system if you can help it(though is good and necessary to maintain good health)- you get an idea how”affordable” it is.

    When you reach your middle age and start to lose your teeth, you may need a tooth transplant then. FYI, a fake tooth can cost up to $4k to $7k.

    Live with bogey lah better.

    Tell yourself, bogey is Swiss standard of living can liao

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  • rukidding:

    PAP is SOooooooooooooo Gooooooood….

    If you suffer from Critical illness and need to buy medicine every month…..this PAP Govt “allows” you to “draw out”…..”S$400″…”Per year “…to be used for buying medicine .

    SOooooooooooooo Gooooooooooooood !

    But ,…”DO YOU KNOW THAT CRITCAL ILLNESS Medicine cost more than S$700 per month” ???

    I wonder how this PAP Gov’t “thinks” that S$400 per year is “OK” when medicine cost at least S$700 per month ???

    We have a GREAT GOV’t indeed !

    S$20 million for Trump/Kim is “Peanuts” !

    S$300 million” for YOG is “peanuts”

    S$ XXX for F1 is “peanuts” too !

    But “they ask”….how much do you want for a meal.???…S$3 enuff ???

    Yes,…our dear Bala said that before !

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  • rukidding:

    You did be surprise that many of those in Medical debts actually have “alot of $$$$$ stuck inside Medisave and Special account”,…which they “can see”….”but cannot touch nor use as needed” .

    This is really a GREAT system indeed….and you will be left with NO CHOICE but to go and “borrow $$” from Frens, Loanshark or family” to “service your purchase of medical needs” !!!

    PAP is “Great indeed” !

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  • Medical too Costly:

    The medical costs is too costly for many elderly Citizen.
    Need to reduce much further..
    Better still make it really affordable for the Poor and elderly…

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  • HarderTruths:

    I cannot afford medical expenses and cannot afford to borrow while staying in rented room – courtesy of pappies – while FT drive around in brand new cars and stay in condos.

    So I cannot go into debt because I cannot borrow because I do have a regular job as a requirement to borrow. But if I had a regular job then I don’t need to borrow.

    No matter what – FT & gahmen always win. Courtesy of 70%.

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  • Declaration of Geneva:

    “I SOLEMNLY PLEDGE to dedicate my life to the service of humanity” (Doctor’s pledge)

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  • MarBowling:

    Under Housing Minister MarBok Tan, the HDB incur about $2 billions DEFICIT a year even though the Bugger said HDB flats are HEAVILY SUBSIDIZED!

    Under Health Ministry Minister Son of the Gan, his ministry incur tens of $milions DEFICIT a year even though the Bugger says health care and all the related stuffs are also SUBSIDIZED!

    Cannot imagine WTF are the ACTUAL COST if BOTH HDB flats and HEALTH STUFFS ARE NOT SUBSIDIZED! And BTW all those ongoing goodwill and so-called SUBSIDIZED STUFFS are GIVEN and PROVIDED to SinKaporean esp the common folks WITH THE BLESSING OF PEEM MAI HUM! He is HoLee, care-giving and care-loving person.

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  • BloodyRulers:

    If you have to go subsidised treatment, then good luck to you <—- that’s true

    The class difference and the quality of treatment differs greatly between the haves and haves not.

    I think the rich rulers will have to account for the differential treatment of god’s creatures.

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  • caliew:

    PAP and the Government Servants always live in their own dream and world; and always love to paint a heavenly picture of how wonderful is Singapore and long forgotten the simple fact that, is people that they have to serve not the other way round. How I hope Political Tsunami can come to Singapore, there is never too late for Singaporean to realize and see through the truth, and it is never too late to change than never.

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  • F By PAP:

    We keep increasing MEDICAL BILL. We local keeps paying and paying more and more expensive services.
    Yet they KEEP employing more and more FTs.
    Keep rewarding more and more DOCTORS at ridiculous salary.
    Keep telling us how great they are BUT at the end. They tell you
    thy have done their BEST after COLLECTing TONS of MEDICAL Bill>!!!
    Believe PAP u b DEAD by time u know IT>!

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  • Bring down medical costs:

    Best solution is to bring down medical costs..
    Make it affordable for the poor and elderly..
    Was surprise that a 2 days stay in C class and a surgery cost nearly $10K..
    Fortunately subsidy and medical insurance helps…
    will be tough for the Poor and those without adequate insurance…

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  • UniQ:

    Me…my mother’s dire leukemia treatment that cost more than a quarter million Singapore dollars over 3 years….A anyone’s child, we CANNOT shy away from such circumstances, but yet for a pioneer generation that was born in the early 1930s, what have the state done for her over such mounting high medical cost ?

    I believe this is one major question many many Singapore Children is asking our ruling gahmen since we are paying them enormous sum of salaries and extremely high taxes on every front and corners of our daily life.

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  • DonnieTinyHands:

    Even after so-called subsidies and CPF deduction co-payment people still have to fork out hefty out of pocket sum.

    Working class and low income families are hit very hard by this.

    It’s time to introduce Single-payer healthcare system by reduce ministers obscene pay, stop gambling public funds on risky ventures and stop building useless projects like $800k bin center.

    That’s how you pay for it.

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  • Anon:

    @Bring down medical costs:
    The answer to healthcare woes for the elderly is a baseline free universalhealthcare system funded by high taxes from the super rich. It is the marketising of what is an essential service that has caused the 8nflation of healthcare costs. When doctors sell their servicesto the highest bidder that is the end of affordable healthcare.

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