Saturday, August 27, 2011

New prescription guidelines for hypertension

25 August 2011
TODAY (Singapore)
(c) 2011. MediaCorp Press Ltd.
Taking repeated blood pressure readings over a 24-hour period rather than a one-off measurement in

the clinic is the most cost-effective way of deciding who should be prescribed drugs for hypertension,
according to a study published in The Lancet medical journal yesterday.

The findings in favour of so-called ambulatory blood pressure monitoring were immediately adopted by
Britain’s health costs watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

Professor Bryan Williams of Leicester University said the change “is likely to be replicated across the

Ambulatory blood pressure measurement involves the patient wearing a blood pressure cuff attached to
an automatic blood pressure machine for 24 hours. Measurements are taken typically half hourly during
the day and hourly during the night.

An estimated one billion people around the world have high blood pressure. REUTERS

Cover Story - Cancer from breast

More and More woman are opting for breast reconstruction with their mastectomies so they can still look and feel normal.

Do you know you are covered by hospitalisation insurance?
There is also a misconception that breast reconstruction is considered cosmetic surgery and will not be
covered by hospitalisation insurance or Medisave.

Depending on a patient's eligibility for subsidy, the estimated bill for a mastectomy followed by an
immediate breast reconstruction ranges between $6,000 and $30,000.

Breast cancer patients who undergo this procedure may use up to $7,550 from Medisave for it and
$450 per day for daily hospitalisation charges.

Younger women affected by cancer seek complete restoration of form for better integration back to
society, family, work and married life.

Have you upgraded your MediShield to "As Charged" plan yet?

As-charged feature

The as-charged feature has become a standard in all Medisave-approved integrated Shield plans but there are many people who have not upgraded to plans that offer this feature. Do take note that a Shield plan comes with deductible and co-insurance components. The former refers to the first layer of charges that the policyholder has to bear. These may range from $1,500 to $3,000.

The co-insurance payment is the portion shared by the policyholder, usually 10 per cent of the bill after taking into account the deductible. If you wish to be covered for the deductible and/or the co-insurance portions of the hospitalisation bill, Shield insurers offer optional riders for them, payable via cash.

If you need help in upgrading your MediShield plan, please drop me an SMS/Call me @ 91000078.

S'pore banks safest in Asia

S'pore banks safest in Asia!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No cover when you need it most - Have you upgraded yours?

ST Forum
No cover when you need it most
22 August 2011
Straits Times
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

LIKE Mr Leong Quee Hian ("MediShield burden"; last Wednesday), my dad had signed up for MediShield cover when it was launched years ago. The cover expired in April when my dad reached the age limit of 85.

My dad was diagnosed with advance prostate cancer late last year and is currently receiving treatment.
While his treatment is MediShield claimable, he is unable to claim due to his age.

It is an anomaly that after paying the required premiums until 84, the insurance suddenly ceases coverage upon one reaching the age of 85, when one would need it most. We pay for MediShield to cover ourselves should we fall sick. The possibility of one falling ill after 85 is higher but ironically, the cover lapses.

In 2008, Madam Halimah Yacob (then head of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Health)
mentioned that medical insurance needed to be extended to cover people beyond the age of 85
("MediShield cover for those over 85?"; Jan 18, 2008). The issue seems to have been sidelined and to
date, MediShield still ceases to cover beyond age 85.

In an e-mail reply to me in September last year, the Ministry of Health explained that the age limit of the
scheme had been regularly reviewed and increased in line with the life expectancy of Singaporeans, the
last review being in 2006, when it was raised from age 80 to 85.

It has been a few years since Madam Halimah's comments and I was hoping that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's National Day Rally speech would address the issue, but it did not.

Potentially huge medical bills not only pose a financial burden to elderly patients, but also an emotional burden to some. Elderly patients above 85 years will definitely be under greater stress knowing that every cent (if any) they had painstakingly saved over the years may be insufficient to meet hefty hospital bills without the MediShield cover.

Some may also feel guilty of being a financial burden to their children (especially if their children have retired), who may have their own family's needs to take care of. I hope the relevant authorities will review and raise the age limit as soon as possible.

Sharon Peh (Ms)
P.S Have you upgraded yours?

Monday, August 8, 2011

What turns off Gen X and Gen Y on life insurance

Lynn Kan

2 August 2011
Business Times Singapore
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

THREE in four of Singapore's Gen X and Gen Y are happy to pay at or above market price for a life insurance plan.

Yet only 19 per cent would actually consider taking out life insurance in the next 12 months, according
to Swiss Re's survey of 1,000 Singaporeans aged 20 to 40 years.

The gap between perceived costliness and actual price is probably why Singaporeans in this age
bracket are put off buying life insurance, says Sharon Ooi, Swiss Re's director of client markets in
South East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Swiss Re asked respondents to come up with a value of how much life insurance should be worth.

'Their value of insurance is actually within the correct range, but they don't know that,' said Ms Ooi. 'If
you narrow the gap in perception, you would get more people buying the products.'

The most common reasons for scrimping on life insurance are not having enough spare money set
aside for it or the perceived costliness of the product.

Swiss Re conducted a region-wide survey of 13,800 respondents across 11 Asia-Pacific countries, after
a similar survey in 2009 with seven countries in the data pool.

Across the board, Asia- Pacific countries' risk appetites have shrunk since 2009.

That is to be expected given what has happened since then. 'We've seen more natural disasters like
what has happened in New Zealand and Japan. There is more understanding about the exposures
people face,' said Ms Ooi. 'There is also the continued financial crisis in Europe and the US, so that
would add to the fact that they would want to take less risk overall.'

Overall, Singapore has the highest insurance ownership rate at 96 per cent.

Still, fewer than half of the respondents believed what they had taken out would be a good enough
buffer to cover their medical or health expenses.

'There is a legitimate understanding that there is a rising medical cost issue because they've seen it
happen in other countries. They need to see what they need to do to plan for it,' said Ms Ooi.

HEFTY HOSPITAL BILLS; Don't ban ward switch entirely

ST Forum
2 August 2011
Straits Times
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

ONE reason patients are saddled with hefty hospital bills is that they have to choose an A-class ward
instead of the subsidised B-class ward when beds in the latter are unavailable.

Consequently, they are barred from switching to B-class beds, and are saddled with hefty A-class

I can understand the Government's reason for barring the switch when there is a choice. But in cases
where the hospital is out of B-class beds, such patients should be allowed to switch back when one
becomes available.

Alternatively, such 'A-class' patients should be allowed access to subsidised care for follow-up

The hospital's standard reply has always been that the patient could wait till a B-class bed becomes
available, or have an ambulance take him to another hospital with an available bed.

However, when one's loved one is ill and in pain, the hospital's reply represents a Hobson's choice.

Families will opt naturally for the practical and immediate solution, which is to stump out for an A-class
bed to ease the suffering of their loved ones.

We are almost held to ransom by the hospital to pay the higher fees. I would gladly pay for an A-class
bed for my loved one who falls ill when no B-class bed is available. But I urge the Health Ministry to
consider allowing these patients to downgrade when a B-class bed becomes available.

As for myself, I recently upgraded my MediShield to cover private hospital fees. This is expensive but I
will not burden my family with having to make such hard choices.

Ho Suit Keng (Ms)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tighter safeguards for investors from Jan 1 2012

Tighter safeguards for investors from Jan 1

Lorna Tan, Senior Correspondent
29 July 2011
Straits Times
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

'Knowledge test' for investors before they can buy certain products

SINGAPORE'S central bank has unveiled new measures aimed at ensuring that financially
inexperienced investors do not buy complex investment products without knowing what they are getting

From next Jan 1, all banks and other outlets will have to assess the financial knowledge and investment
experience of everyone keen to buy such products.

Those who pass the checks will be allowed to buy. But those who are not approved and still wish to buy
must be given advice by the banks on whether the product is suitable.

The products include exchange traded funds, investment-linked insurance policies, structured notes,
warrants, options and futures.

And the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) has set the bar fairly high before someone can invest in
these products. For example, customers will be approved if they have a business diploma, or have
bought certain products at least six times in the past three years, or have a minimum of three years of
working experience related to investment products.

The safeguards come in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, when 9,900 investors here suffered huge
losses totalling $520 million after the implosion of Lehman Minibonds they had thought were low-risk.

Some people were mis-sold products by banks which had wrongly classified the products as being lowrisk
while others were pushed products without proper advice and complete information. Some providers
did not even gather any financial information from clients before selling.

Under the new measures, financial institutions have to conduct a 'customer knowledge assessment' with
their clients before selling certain products.

In the case of a trading account such as for buying exchange traded funds, a 'customer account review'
will be needed.

Welcoming the moves, Consumers Association of Singapore executive director Seah Seng Choon said
the assessment measures would help investors understand the risks and implications of such
investments and minimise mis-selling.

But he felt that even those who have cleared the assessment should exercise caution.

Retail investor Susan Foo, 48, a retiree, who lost $50,000 from her investment in Lehman Minibonds,
said she might have avoided that fate if the new measures had been in existence earlier.

Under the new regulations, the seller should tell the customer if he is assessed as not having the
relevant knowledge or experience.

If the customer is not approved, banks may suggest that he undergoes learning modules to learn more
about these products. And in some cases, a lower trading limit would have to be set.

As the assessment results are not transferable, investors will be assessed repeatedly if they go
shopping at different banks. The results are valid for either one or three years subject to certain

Banks contacted yesterday said they would have no problem meeting the new rules from MAS.

'Since early 2009, we have adopted an even more stringent sales process by incorporating certain
knowledge assessment criteria into our financial needs analysis, and requiring a full financial needs
analysis of our customers for every investment product sold,' said Mr Lim Wyson, OCBC's head of
global wealth management.

DBS Bank said it would not sell a product even if the customer insists if the product is deemed
unsuitable and he has no clear capability of understanding it.

Standard Chartered Bank said it takes account of factors such as a customer's personal background,
risk tolerance, investment horizon and funds, to come to an agreed risk rating.

However, for some businesses, the new rules might prove too costly and a hassle to implement
because they may have to get more staff and spend more time with each customer.

Mr Wong Sui Jau, general manager of online unit trust distributor Fundsupermart, believes the new
measures will weed out weaker rivals. His company has had to modify its IT systems and hire
investment specialists to deal with customers.

Products not covered

THE new rules apply to 'specified investment products' which are any investment products other than
those listed below. Products that are listed only on a stock exchange outside Singapore are also not
subject to the rules.

* Shares
* Depository receipts representing shares
* Rights issues
* Company warrants
* Units in business trusts
* Units in real estate investment trusts
* Certain debentures
* Life insurance policies (other than investment-linked insurance policies)
* Foreign exchange contracts

More S'porean women getting ovarian cancer

More S'porean women getting ovarian cancer
26 July 2011
Straits Times
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Reduced child-bearing a main cause for rise in illness' occurrence

WITH women putting off pregnancy and having fewer or no children at all nowadays, ovarian cancer has
become more common.

For every 100,000 women here, 15.5 will come down with this disease, a rate more than twice that of 40
years ago.

This trend is not unique to Singapore; it is also being seen in developing and newly developed countries
where women have begun putting off having children in order to build their careers.

Associate Professor Tay Eng Hseon, the medical director of Thomson Women Cancer Centre,
described the trend as 'alarming', coming as it does among a trio of women's cancers on the rise, in
tandem with reduced child-bearing.

The three cancers are ovarian cancer, breast cancer and uterine or womb cancer.

Of the three, ovarian cancer - the fifth most common cancer among women here - is of the greatest concern, he said, because no effective screening process exists for it.

It has no symptoms, and unlike uterine cancer, ovarian cancer is usually diagnosed only in the
advanced stages, he added.

Seven in 10 women are diagnosed only after the cancer has spread; by this time, it is very difficult to
treat it successfully.

The cancer is triggered by the rapid growth and division of cells within one or both ovaries, the
reproductive glands that produce eggs and female sex hormones.

Under normal circumstances, the ovaries contain cells that reproduce to maintain tissue health, but
when these cells divide too quickly, a tumour results.

It is not known what causes ovarian cancer, but family history is an important factor when estimating a
woman's risk of ovarian cancer.

Another factor is reduced child-bearing. Prof Tay said women who have delivered two or more children
and those who have used birth-control pills to suppress ovulation for five years or more can halve their
risk of this cancer.

Associate Professor Marcela del Carmen of the Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States
said that even those who have had this cancer before face a 75 per cent recurrence rate within two

Specialists were attending a meeting here over the weekend to evaluate findings from Calypso, the
largest clinical trial done on recurrent ovarian cancer.

The trial, involving nearly 1,000 women, was carried out in several countries to test the effectiveness
and safety of the combination of new drugs, compared with the standard treatment for relapsed ovarian


Before you take up an ILP

Banks should not act like insurance agents

ST Forum

Banks should not act like insurance agents
25 July 2011
Straits Times
(c) 2011 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

RECENTLY, my husband and I were looking to buy some insurance policies. As we had previous bad
experiences buying through insurance agents who were keen on pushing only their own companies'
products, we thought of buying through banks instead.

Since most banks are now positioning themselves as one-stop centres offering a suite of financial
products, we thought they would be independent. We were wrong.

We visited DBS Bank and it was aggressively pushing only Aviva's products. We tried OCBC Bank and
it was pushing Great Eastern's products. We tried United Overseas Bank and Standard Chartered Bank
as well and came out ruffled as their insurance consultants were pushing Prudential's products. In
other words, we had no choice.

The bank staff told us that the insurance companies they were representing were the best and their
products offered the best value. But how would we know if this is true if we cannot make any direct
comparisons and decide for ourselves?

Are banks independent if each pushes only one insurance company's products? Or have they become
agents of the insurance companies? Are banks driven by customers' needs and interests or by the
commissions paid by insurance companies?

Shouldn't the Monetary Authority of Singapore make banks stick to their banking business and stop
behaving like insurance agents?

Jessie Loy (Ms)