The government will set aside $6.1 billion under the Merdeka Generation Package, which is set to benefit close to 500,000 Singaporeans, said Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat in his Budget 2019 speech on Monday (18 February).
Announcing the details of the package, Heng called it “a gesture of our nation’s gratitude” for the contributions of the generation, aged between 60 and 69 years old, and “a way to show care for them in their silver years”.
“They will provide them with better peace of mind over future healthcare costs while helping them to stay healthy and active,” he added.
The Merdeka Generation Package, first announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong during last year’s National Day Rally, will consist of five key benefits, said Heng.
All Merdeka Generation will receive a one-time $100 top-up to their PAssion Silver concession card. This can be used to pay for activities and facilities at community clubs, public transport, entry fees to public swimming pools and more.
Starting from this year to 2023, the Merdeka Generation will receive Medisave top-up of $200 per year to help them save more for healthcare needs. This is on top of the GST Voucher-MediSave top-ups that eligible seniors aged 65 and above receive every year.
They will receive special Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) subsidies for common illness, chronic procedures, and dental procedures that will be higher than CHAS Blue Health Assist card subsidies. All Merdeka Generation seniors will receive these subsidies regardless of income, including those who do not have a CHAS card. They will also receive an additional 25 per cent off – on top of prevailing subsidies – at polyclinics and public specialists outpatient clinics.
They will also receive between five and 10 per cent off their MediShield Life premiums for life. Subsidies for the premiums will start from five per cent and increase to 10 per cent when they reach 75 years of age.
For those who join CareShield Life, they will get an additional participation incentive of $1,500. In addition to the $2,500 dollars previously announced, this means that all Merdeka Generation seniors who join the severe disability scheme will receive $4,000.
Heng said that the package is estimated to cost over $8 billion, in current dollars, over the Merdeka Generation’s lifetimes. With interest accumulated over time, the $6.1 billion set aside during Budget 2019 will cover the projected cost of the package, he added.
A Singaporean’s average life expectancy is currently 84.8 years which means the Merdeka Generation will be able to enjoy the package benefits “for many years”, said Heng.
The Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Health (MOH) have taken this into account when sizing this year’s budget, he added.
Noting that the sum is “a significant commitment by the government”, Heng said, “It is important that the government of the day continues to monitor the patterns and cost of healthcare utilisation, and life expectancy, over the next 30 years or more, so that the government is able to meet this commitment.”
Those who were born in 1950s and obtained citizenship by 1996 will be eligible for the package.
Those born in 1949 and earlier will also be eligible if they missed out on the Pioneer Generation Package if they obtained citizenship by 1996.
Those who are eligible will be notified by April and receive their Merdeka Generation Package cards starting from June.
More information will be provided by the MOH at the upcoming Committee of Supply debate.
More stories on Budget 2019 here.