Primary care plans to cover foreign workers medical costs

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Migrant workers will need to fork out $5 for each visit to the medical centre as co-payment and $2 for each telemedicine session.
Migrant workers will need to fork out $5 for each visit to the medical centre as co-payment and $2 for each telemedicine session.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE – Companies that employ foreign workers here will soon be able to buy primary care plans to cover their workers’ healthcare costs.

The plans, ranging from $108 to $145 per worker a year, will be offered by four healthcare providers.

They have been appointed to run six regional medical centres here as part of a new primary healthcare network for migrant workers that was announced earlier this year.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng said on Monday (Nov 29) that employers can pay for the plans in monthly instalments. More details on the payment mechanism will be announced at a later date.

This money will be used to cover a standard set of services the new medical centres will provide.

These include medical examinations for work pass purposes, medical consultations and treatments, annual health screenings and telemedicine.

It will not cover the costs of hospitalisation or surgery.

However, employers are legally responsible for the cost of medical treatment for foreign workers.

They must buy and maintain medical insurance coverage of at least $15,000 a year for each work permit holder they employ, covering inpatient care and day surgery.

The prices of the upcoming primary care plans will depend on where the workers live, and are based on the competitive bids submitted under a tender that was put out in September.

To encourage the prudent use of medical resources and instil personal ownership of their own health, migrant workers will need to fork out $5 for each visit to the medical centre as co-payment and $2 for each telemedicine session, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said.

Under the new system, healthcare will be delivered in six geographical sectors, each housing at least 40,000 foreign workers, both in and out of dormitories.

Each sector will be anchored by a regional medical centre, and complemented by on-site medical centres in larger dorms, where applicable.

There will be four such on-site centres in total. There will also be at least two mobile clinical teams per sector and round-the-clock telemedicine consultations.

The new system is expected to be implemented in the second quarter of next year, according to MOM’s September tender.

Five of the six sectors will be managed by private healthcare providers and one has been set aside for a non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Fullerton Healthcare Group, Sata CommHealth and StarMed Specialist Centre were on Monday appointed to operate the five sectors allocated to private healthcare companies, while the NGO-run centre, operated by St Andrew’s Mission Hospital (SAMH), is already up and running at a temporary site in Penjuru Recreation Centre.

The new centres will succeed 13 existing centres that have been up and running since August last year.

For the Penjuru centre, which is near Teban Gardens, a new purpose-built facility will replace the temporary medical centre there.

The new facility will be launched in the first quarter of next year and serve about 57,000 workers living in areas such as Choa Chu Kang, Jurong West and Pasir Panjang.

MOM said foreign workers will be automatically enrolled with the operator in charge of the sector where they live. There will also be designated general practitioner clinics that will support the new healthcare network.

To minimise any cultural and language barriers, the four appointed operators will employ healthcare workers who can speak the native languages of the migrant workers, and have technology-enabled multilingual translation capabilities.

At the upcoming Penjuru medical centre, migrant workers can also get their teeth checked, have X-rays taken, or seek counselling.

It will be funded by donations from the estates of late hotelier Khoo Teck Puat and late real estate tycoon Ng Teng Fong.

The donations, totalling $20 million, will also go to a new foreign worker charity called MigrantWell Singapore, and a welfare fund that will support it.

The Singapore Business Federation’s social impact arm, SBF Foundation, is leading the project and aims to raise another $15 million.

On Monday, the two donors, SBF Foundation, SAMH and MOM signed a memorandum of understanding on these initiatives.

Speaking to reporters at the event, Dr Tan said the primary care plan for foreign workers is based on a capitation model, which has been tested in many countries and studied by MOM.

“(The cost) is actually significantly lower than what they (employers) would have to pay out of pocket for each visit that the migrant worker makes to a general practitioner,” he said.


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