Saturday, September 20, 2014

S’pore tops ranking of most efficient healthcare systems

September 19

SINGAPORE — The Republic has overtaken Hong Kong to top a ranking of the most efficient healthcare systems, as the Government boosts spending on medical services to support an ageing population.

Singapore was rated first among 51 countries, said an annual ranking compiled by Bloomberg that tracks factors including life expectancy, the cost of healthcare as a percentage of gross domestic product and total medical expenditure for each person. Hong Kong dropped to second place and Italy was ranked third, while the United States was 44th and Russia last.

Singapore has increased healthcare spending in recent years as the workforce ages and the Government faces political pressure to ease the burden of the country’s poor. The country subsidises some medical expenses and patients are required to take on more of the costs if they choose premium services, with citizens using mandatory savings set aside for healthcare needs.

“I describe Singapore’s system as the least imperfect in the world,” said Mr Jeremy Lim, Asia-Pacific head of health and life sciences at management consulting firm Oliver Wyman. “If Singapore can successfully balance the increased funding availability with prudent measures to curb inappropriate consumption and overconsumption, which society as a whole accepts and supports, the future would be very promising.”

Bloomberg’s ranking of the most efficient healthcare systems is based on countries with a population of at least five million, GDP per capita exceeding US$5,000 (S$6,340) and a minimum life expectancy of 70 years. This year’s ranking took into account year-on-year changes to the criteria used.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said the Government would spend close to S$4 billion over the next five years to help Singaporeans benefit from MediShield Life, a new universal health insurance plan to be implemented at the end of next year. It has also set aside S$9 billion for healthcare and other benefits for the elderly as part of a Pioneer Generation Package.

The number of elderly in Singapore, aged 65 years and above, will triple to 900,000 by 2030, said its National Population and Talent Division. Based on the current birth rate and without opening its workforce to more foreigners, the median age in Singapore will rise to 47 years by 2030 from 39 in 2011, it said. About 1,200 beds will be added to Singapore’s healthcare sector this year, with 10,000 more by the end of 2020, said the MOH. In addition to eight public hospitals, private options include IHH Healthcare’s Mount Elizabeth and Raffles Medical Group’s centre.

As the population of older people with chronic illnesses and disabilities and home requirements increases, beds would get filled with more people who have difficulty getting out of the hospital, said Professor David Matchar, director of health services and systems research at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School. “It only means that the bed crunch would get worse.”

Singapore topped a separate Bloomberg ranking in 2012 of the world’s healthiest countries, compared with Hong Kong at 17th and the US at 33rd out of 145 countries. The Republic’s Health Promotion Board hosts free exercise programmes in the central business district and schools run a programme to help overweight and underweight children achieve an ideal weight.

“With Singapore being very high in terms of rankings, I think it is largely attributable to preventative care,” said Mr Tilak Abeysinghe, an associate professor of economics at the National University of Singapore. “The government takes a very, very active role of telling people to live healthily.”


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