Friday, March 29, 2013

Things are NOT WELL in Singapore

Came across a good article by in a blog. For details :

Summary :
1) our national average SALARY is significantly LOWER than our GDP per capital by 41%

2) We have the 2nd HIGHEST income INEQUALITY amongst economically developed countries.

3) The same goes for our very LOW PURCHASING power

3) We fork out the HIGHEST for our HEALTHCARE cost amongst developed countries (63.9%)

4) We also have the LOWEST RETIREMENT income

1) S'pore has the 2nd HIGHEST CASH surplus

2) Our RESERVE is the 3rd HIGHEST

3) Our POLITICAL leaders' salary is the HIGHEST in the World

"Singapore is in dire need for bold and dynamic changes to kick start our chugging engine. Our government is losing its moral authority at an ever quickening pace, where the trust among the people towards it is eroding at light speed. Such is the state of being when a government forgets its responsibility towards the people that had put it in power. "

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Medisave depleted by Medishield

My mum is a homemaker all her life. Folks like her do not have much retirement savings. Likely, many seniors like my mum could be better off without CPF Medisave a/c and Medishield coverage.

My mum has been paying cash for her health care expenses and has never once touch her medisave nor make any claim on her Medishield. Currently her medisave a/c is depleted by her Medishield as the premium has been increasing by leaps over the years.

She was influenced by my aunts who are 'PAP believers' with blind trust in our govt. They told her it is to her benefit to have a CPF a/c so that she could 'benefit' from govt top-up to CPF members' a/c. This normally happens when CPF policies change, whereby they 'demanded' more money from its members. So the govt would 'lighten' the burden with top-ups.

My mum has been putting money in her CPF a/c for more more than 2 decades in order to receive the occasional govt  top up. Then in 2001, the govt enticed elderly to put more money in their CPF, by encouraging them to be covered under Medishield.

As usual, their tactic is to give peanuts in return for walnuts. So they covered the 1st year premium of $132. My mum at that time was 69. We innocently thought that the premium was reasonable basing on the starting premium amount. By 2006, her Medishield premium has went up to $375 - which is more than 100% increase.

Last year (2012) it was $615. Then the bomb shell this year! Her premium for 2013 is $1123 - which is 82.6% increase in just 1 year! She has only $600+ in her medisave which is not enough to pay for her Medishield premium. As usual, because of the change in CPF policy, the govt will be giving top-up this year, which for her is $400. But there are a number of conditions attached to the top up which is to make sure you have to put more money into the CPF a/c first.

CPF gleefully send her a letter telling her to top up again. She will not be given the govt medisave top up of $400 until her Medishield is renewed. They make sure the $400 top up which could have help to offset her shortfall, is only given after extracting more money from her first.

Besides, the $400 is to 'help' offset premium increase over 2 years. So effectively, it is only $200 per year. What is $200 when the premium has shot up by $508!

She has been transferring money from her meagre life savings into her CPF all these years. Now after being covered by Medishield for 12 years, she has no money in her Medisave.  Elderly like her is better off holding on to their cash which they have full control over. Putting them in CPF only means 'can see but cannot touch'.  If an elderly is unable to keep putting money in CPF, they will be left without Medishield coverage in their critical years.

For this group of seniors, they should have kept away from CPF with its web of complicated policies, which most of them cannot understand.  CPF is as hungry as a wolf for money and is a bottomless pit, always demanding for more money from its members with perpetual changes in policy and all sort of 'new' schemes (CPF Life, Eldershield...etc,etc).

Elderly with little savings and no family member could easily see their retirement dried up and disappear once they get entangle with CPF. Like a spider web, there is NO escape for its victim.

Irritating standard answers from CPF Board

Phone call enquiry to CPF Board is out of the question, unless one has plenty of time to spare and very patient. Their line is perpetually 'hot'. After listening to tons of options and make the necessary selections, you will be told you are the 8th in the queue (normally some large number) - a very long wait indeed.

Writing to them also test one's patient, as CPF just like any other typical govt organisations - loves to give standard answer to any enquiry, including general ones.

As our govt CPF policies are so complicated, most elderly folks are easier fooled by them. For example, the recent govt medisave top up announcement. My aunt in her 80s phoned my mum to express her delight that the govt is topping up her medisave a/c. But to my understanding, she is not cover by medishield (my aunt is a homemaker all her life).  The recent govt top-up to medisave is meant to offset the increase in medishield premium. Thus, she will not get the top up.

I decided to email to CPF to ask them if my aunt who has only medisave a/c but no medishield coverage, is  eligible for the top up.

Though expected, I still find it irritating that they reply with standard answer, which likely they copy and paste all the time. Their reply is : 
To enable us to assist you further, please provide us with your
aunt's NRIC/CPF Account number.
We would be pleased to assist if you require further
clarification. For more information on CPF, please
visit our website at or call us on
1800-227 1188 from Mondays to Fridays, 8am-5.30pm.
Can't they just answer a simple 'yes' or 'no', without asking
for unnecessary details and wasting public's time. 
Talk about productivity. This is a clear cut example of how
unproductive they are. 
Latest Update : After another round of correspondent with CPF-
it is confirm that those with NO Medishield a/c will not
receive any govt top-up to their CPF a/c 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ask The Minister

Channel News Asia (CNA) runs a new program on "Ask The Minister", whereby each week, a minister will be invited to the program to interact with audience over the internet (both audio + visual) to discuss on the policy under his/her ministry.

This week it was Mr Heng from the Ministry of Education. At the end of the program, as a round off, he was asked what is the one thing he would want to fix within these 2 years.  Sigh! He gave a l-o-n-g winded answer without answering the question. Looks like he is clueless how to go about 'righting' and improving the education system in S'pore.

So there he goes - saying that he want to help every students to succeed...blah...blah. He wants to help every educator to succeed.....blah...blah.... But exactly what does he need to do (fix) in order to help students and educators to succeed ?? We are left clueless.

Likely some enlightened bloggers could provide the answer though they are not head of education ministry nor paid an obscene salary to think through the problem. Actually Mr Heng does not even need to think, as he has so many 'capable' staff under him to do the job of thinking for him. Perhaps this could be the reason he is clueless on what he needs to do, as he is awaiting feedback from his staff.

Mr Heng is another typical PAP minister - talks a lot without substance. Currently, most PAP ministers are pretending learning to listen to public feedback, though they still go off tangent when answering critical questions which make them uncomfortable. Or they would use their infamous strategy of asking back - "What do you think?"  instead of providing an answer.

Instant Noddles - S'pore Laksa flavour

Channel News Asia (CNA) ran a series based on instant noodles.  Each week, it zoomed in on the instant noodles 'culture'  in different country in Asia. I caught some of the episodes featuring Thailand, Japan, Korea and Singapore. Missed the one on Hong Kong. 

The common feature is that in most countries, it started off as providing affordable food for the masses. In fact in Japan and Korea, it was food for many during the years after the second World War.  Later on it become part of the food culture of that country, blending in with the local test. So in Korea, their instant noodles are mostly spicy with kimchi  favour.

It is an interesting program as there are so many 'nuance' regarding instant noodles in order to capture the taste of the targeted market. Besides flavour, another important factor is the noddles' texture - how chewy it is. In some countries, the folks prefer them chewy, in others, they like it more 'soft'.

In recent years, instant noodles have gone 'upmarket' as they are sold in eatery and even restaurants.  It is a surprise even to owners of eateries that the instant noodles item on their menu sells like hot cake. Profit margin is handsome.

I learned that Singapore has our unique instant noodles flavour which is not available in other countries. It is the Laksa Singapura Flavour under Koka brand. Seems Koka made a number of break throughs as they spent heavily on research. For example, Koka noodles need only 2 minutes cooking instead of the conventional 3 minutes required. Then their noodles do not use MSG - which is great and not easy to achieve. To make healthier noodles (without MSG, oil..) is hard as the taste must not be compromised.

I enjoy instant noodles as they are easy to cook. So far my experience with instant noodles is that they don't taste like the real thing. Mushroom flavour has no mushroom taste, chicken flavour taste similar to the mushroom ones, prawn ones...etc. The differences I find between different brand of noodles are the texture and cooking time.  I switched between a few brands, but have never tried Koka before. So after watching the program on CNA, I went out to buy their Laksa flavour.

What a surprise, it really taste like LAKSA

I think I will stick with Koka in the future.  I will be getting their other flavours to see if they taste distinctly different from one another.  They boost of some other other unique noodles which are healthier and make from ingredients which other brands don't carry.

So if you enjoy instant noodles, support local brand and go for Koka to satisfy your taste bud.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Patients' woes due to overloaded Hospitals

Our hospitals are so over loaded that to get a doctor appointment, the normal waiting time is 3 months. If we get get to see a doctor within 2 months - it is consider 'urgent' case and doctor make special arrangement to 'squeeze' you in the schedule.

Then, diagnosis can take months and we will be send for numerous tests. If the tests turn out normal, another 2 to 3 months waiting time, more tests....the cycle repeats itself. No treatment given as the doctor still don't know what is wrong with us.

So by the time the hospital found out what is wrong with us, our sickness will have deteriorate drastically or near terminal stage. All the money and time wasted just to end up seriously or terminally ill.

In S'pore - better to eat and enjoy before dying rather than waste so much money and being frustrated in the hospital before coming to the same end.

Of course if one can afford private healthcare and pay a premium, being 'sick' can be 'smoother' ride. Average S'poreans who cannot pay up have to depend on 'subsidy' - it is a long journey of wait..wait and wait be it for consultation or treatment in hospitals.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Waiting time at Polyclinic vs Hospital

Looks like though Polyclinic is more overloaded with patients than hospital, they are better managed as far as consultation waiting time is concerned.

Polyclinic - without appointment, the waiting time is about 1 to 3 hours. With appointment, it is around 20 to 45 minutes.

Hospital (eg. CGH, SNEC) - even with appointment, the waiting time is 1 to 2 hours. Those without appointment normally goes under 'emergency' cases,  which I understand has l-o-n-g waiting time too, besides footing a heavy bill.

So if it is not a matter of life and death, might as well consult a doctor in the polyclinic if one does not have prior appointment, since the waiting time in hospital emergency ward is equally daunting.

As for prior medical appointment in hospital, it is time they do a review of their time management since it is very unproductive for patients to be kept waiting for hours well past their appointment time.

If the govt is serious about  improving productivity, Ministry of Health should tell all the hospitals to stop wasting so many man-hours of patients' time - waiting and waiting to see their doctors. It defeats the whole purpose of giving the patient an appointment time if it is so badly managed.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tests done in Polyclinic vs Hospital

Cost of investigation tests relating to blood and urine varies substantially when done in Polyclinic vs CGH (even with subsidy). The main thing to note is that both Polyclinic and CGH use the same testing laboratory, which is SGH.

In Polyclinic, doing a full blood count, thyroid panel, renal panel plus another 3 items cost only $12.50 in total for 6 investigating tests. 

CGH charges would be :  full blood count $3.13, thyroid panel $32 and renal panel $13.57 totaling $48.70 just for 3 tests. This is almost 300% more than Polyclinic ! And remember, they send to the same testing laboratory in SGH.

These are common investigation tests. For those not common ones, CGH charges are very high. For example, Myeloma panel test even with subsidy cost nearly $100. Without subsidy it is close to $500.

I started off consulting Polyclinic for my leg numbness. After a few consultation and some tests, they send me to CGH specialist. Now after 2 rounds of consultations and numerous tests (MRI, nerve conduction, blood & urine) at CGH, costing more than $600 - I am no closer to knowing the cause of my problem.  Nothing is done to relieve my numbness - it is just one test after another with each consultation.

Healthcare is very expensive in S'pore even with subsidy.  We have to come out cash for our healthcare expenses to meet chronic health care needs as we aged. We have no access to our own saving  in CPF medisave account, which is for medical needs. Only the govt can use our CPF money as they like for investment and loan out to other govt statutory boards. They have an iron grip on money that do NOT belong to them. Uniquely Singapore indeed as we the citizens have no access to our own money in CPF.

Walk The Talk for goodness sake

Those PAP ministers, MPs and their academic supporters should come down from their ivory towers to experience ground reality.  It is sickening to hear them spouting illogical reasons in support of the population white paper of having 6.9 million. The latest idiot to throw his support behind the white paper is Professor Ng Yew Kwang. Any layman has more common sense than this Prof Ng -  typical permanent head damage guy going by his reasons why we should have 6.9 million.

They should learn from CEO of Taiwan's High Speed Reail Corp, Dr Ou Chin-der.  Dr Ou walks the talk, unlike our PAP men and their academic supporters living in their airy castles.

Dr Ou's philosophy is : You must work with the people, you don't just give instructions. People need to know the reason and when they know, you get consensus. Dr Ou is a firm believer in 'management by walkabout'.  Instead of  'I am watching you' he motivates his staff by letting them know 'I am working with you'. 

As a CEO, he is very much in touch with the ground as he has the habit of always boarding a train (his company's) at the first carriage, so that he can walk down the entire train for an inspection. He boards the train from Taipei and visit all the stations down the line to Kaoshsiung.

Dr Ou was involved in the construction of S'pore Changi Airport and Marina Centre district. Dr Ou has a reputation for crisis management for Taiwan's infrastructure problems. Since PAP loves foreign talent, we should get Dr Ou to head SMRT. Getting an expert with relevant experience is definitely better than our current SMRT CEO who is an ex-army chap. No wonder our MRT woes are getting from bad to worst.

PAP could also consider Dr Ou as a candidate to replace our PM (another ex-army chap). We need leadership like his to get S'pore out of the rot created by PM and his PAP gang over the last decade.