Singapore: Covid-19 patients who are “unvaccinated by choice” will be responsible for their medical bills as the government will no longer bear their costs, Singapore’s Health Ministry said.
The government has, so far, been covering the cost of Covid-19 care for all Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders, excluding those who tested positive after returning from overseas travel.
This was done to “avoid financial considerations adding to public uncertainty and concern when Covid-19 was an emergent and unfamiliar disease”, the ministry said in a statement.
While for the majority who are vaccinated, this will continue until the Covid-19 situation is more stable, but from December 8, 2021 this will change for people who are eligible to get vaccinated against the virus but choose not to.
“Currently, unvaccinated persons make up a sizeable majority of those who require intensive inpatient care, and disproportionately contribute to the strain on our healthcare resources,” the ministry said in a statement.
“We will begin charging Covid-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice,” it added.
However, the government will continue to bear the cost of people not eligible for the shots such as children under 12, and people with certain medical conditions. Even people partially vaccinated will not be charged until December 31, to give them time to complete the full series.
The policy change means the government will start charging all unvaccinated Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals and designated “Covid-19 Treatment Facilities” on or after December 8. Those patients can still use their regular health care financing arrangements to pay their bills where applicable, the ministry said.
“Our hospitals really much prefer not to have to bill these patients at all, but we have to send this important signal, to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible,” Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said during a press conference on Monday.
Singapore has vaccinated more than 80 per cent of its population, outpacing most other countries. But the sustained numbers of severe cases, which have been mainly among unvaccinated people, have put such a strain on Singapore’s health care system. Of about 280 intensive-care beds for Covid patients, 134 are occupied, and most are among those not vaccinated, The New York Times quoted Janil Puthucheary, a senior minister of state, as saying.
“We have to continue to try to keep this number as small as possible,” he said, since health care workers “continue to be stretched”.