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COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated 'by choice' will have to pay their own medical bills from Dec 8

COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated 'by choice' will have to pay their own medical bills from Dec 8

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Singapore on Apr 21, 2021. (Photo: Marcus Mark Ramos)

SINGAPORE: From Dec 8, all COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated "by choice" will have to pay their own medical bills if they are admitted to hospitals or COVID-19 treatment facilities, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Monday (Nov 8).

The Government is currently footing the full COVID-19 medical bills of all Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders, other than for those who test positive soon after returning from overseas travel.

"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," said MOH.

The new rule will apply to COVID-19 patients who are eligible for vaccination but choose not to do so.

Those who are partially vaccinated will have their medical bills paid for by the Government until Dec 31 to allow them time to be fully vaccinated, MOH said.

COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice may still tap on regular healthcare financing arrangements to pay for their bills where applicable.

Singaporeans and permanent residents may access regular government subsidies and MediShield Life or the Integrated Shield Plan where applicable. Long-term pass holders may use their usual financing arrangements, such as private insurance.

People who are ineligible for vaccination, including children under 12 years old or medically ineligible patients, will still have their COVID-19 medical bills fully paid for by the Government, the Health Ministry added.

From Jan 1 next year, only Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders who are fully vaccinated and have not recently travelled to other countries will have their COVID-19 medical bills fully paid for by the Government.

Who is considered medically ineligible for COVID-19 vaccination

1) Persons aged 18 years (based on date of birth) and above who were unable to complete their vaccination regime due to allergies or a previous severe adverse reaction to all vaccines under the national vaccination programme, namely Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty, Moderna and Sinovac-CoronaVac

2) Persons below 18 years of age, who were unable to complete the vaccination regime due to allergies or a severe adverse reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine under the Pandemic Special Access route, and are unable to take the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine

Persons aged 12 to 17 who medically ineligible for the Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty mRNA vaccine can still opt to take the Sinovac-CoronaVac vaccine under a dedicated public health programme where they will be closely monitored by medical personnel, MOH said.

3) Persons with or under the following conditions or treatment:

a) Transplant within past three months; and/or

b) Aggressive immunotherapy; and/or

c) Active cancer on treatment

While these persons can take the COVID-19 vaccine safely, MOH said, their doctors may advise delaying their vaccination – as they will be severely immunocompromised during the course of their medical treatment – to a time when the vaccine will be more effective for them.

"Their medical ineligibility status will expire upon reaching the date indicated by the certifying doctor on when they may take the vaccine. They may be further reviewed by their doctors as necessary," MOH added.

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MOH said the current arrangement of footing the full COVID-19 medical bills for all Singaporeans, permanent residents and long-term pass holders was to "avoid financial considerations adding to public uncertainty and concern when COVID-19 was an emergent and unfamiliar disease".

"For the majority who are vaccinated, this special approach for COVID-19 bills will continue until the COVID-19 situation is more stable," the ministry added.

Speaking at a multi-ministry task force press conference, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said hospitals would prefer not to have to bill COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated by choice.

"But we have to send this important signal to urge everyone to get vaccinated if you are eligible," he added.

In a written Parliamentary reply on Nov 1, Mr Ong said the Government would carefully consider making the unvaccinated pay part of their medical bills should they be infected with COVID-19, following suggestions from Members of Parliament and the public.

"We should be clear that the objective is not for collecting revenue, and cost of treatment will still be heavily subsidised. Instead, this serves as a strong signal for the unvaccinated to get their jabs," he wrote.

As of Saturday, 85 per cent of Singapore's population have completed their full regimen or received two doses of COVID-19 vaccines. About 86 per cent have received at least one dose, while 18 per cent have received their booster shots.

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Source: CNA/hz

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