Singapore makes primary care plan mandatory for migrant workers

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Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced on Saturday that starting on 01 April, employers will have to buy a primary care plan for migrant workers as part of their work pass requirements.

The new rule will apply to work permit and S Pass holders who live in dormitories, as well as those working in the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors, MOM said.

The plan, which can cost up to S$138 a year, will cover most primary care needs for these workers, including medical examinations for work pass application or renewal, unlimited acute or chronic medical consultations and treatments and telemedicine services.

It will also cover annual basic health screenings and scheduled trips to and from dormitories and MOM medical centres within each sector.

Migrant workers can also seek care at designated general practitioner clinics in partnership with the anchor operators, the ministry said.

This is in line with the new primary healthcare system for migrant workers, announced in November last year.

With effect from 01 Apr this year, employers of eligible newly arrived migrant workers, or workers who renew their work passes or change employers, must purchase the plan before the new work passes can be issued.

All eligible existing migrant workers must have a valid primary care plan by 31 March 2023 even if their work passes are only due for renewal after that date, MOM said.

Announcing the move, Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng said on Saturday that the plan is designed to cover most of the migrant workers’ primary care needs, and give them greater peace of mind when accessing primary healthcare.

“It will also provide employers with cost clarity and strengthen protection for employers against unexpected healthcare bills,” said Dr. Tan, speaking at the opening of the St Andrew’s Migrant Worker Medical Centre.

Employers of eligible migrant workers are required to purchase the primary care plans with the anchor operator managing the geographical sector the workers live in, said MOM.

The current anchor operators are StarMed Specialist Centre, SATA CommHealth, Fullerton Healthcare Group and St Andrew’s Mission Hospital.

Prices for the plan range from S$108 to S$138 per worker per year, MOM said, adding this amount can be paid through regular monthly installments.

“These standardised costs protect employers from accumulating large primary care bills annually,” said the ministry.

Workers covered under the plan must co-pay S$5 for each visit to an MOM medical centre, or S$2 for each telemedicine session, said the MOM, stating that such co-payment by migrant workers helps “instil personal responsibility for their own health”.

For migrant workers not covered under the plan, the amount to be co-paid can be mutually agreed via the employment contract or collective agreement and is capped by law at 1% of the workers’ fixed monthly salary for each outpatient visit, or S$5, whichever is higher.

“The health and wellbeing of their migrant workers is a key priority for many employers,” said Mr. Lee Kay Chai, first vice-president of the Singapore Contractors’ Association.

He added that the plan will allow workers to receive easily accessible, quality healthcare while ensuring medical costs are kept affordable for employers. (Source: CNA)

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