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Forum Reply: Earlier transition to enhanced medical insurance better protects employers

We refer to Ho Kok Wai’s letter “Include cancer screening in maids’ health checks”
(26 Sep).

In Singapore, cancer screening is voluntary for everyone, including MDWs.

MDWs are required to undergo pre-employment medical examinations before their work permits are issued.

These include screening for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV, syphilis and malaria. The medical examinations give a level of assurance, at an acceptable cost to employers, that their MDWs are generally fit to work and would not pose public health risks.

Employers of MDWs who surface symptoms of concern should send them for further medical consultation, including cancer screening if appropriate. MDWs who develop cancer while in Singapore should discuss treatment options with their employers. They may also opt to return home to seek treatment and support from their loved ones.

We also encourage MDW employers to transition their workers’ existing insurance policies to the enhanced medical insurance requirements early, before they are due for renewal. The increased minimum medical insurance coverage with an annual claim limit of $60,000 is expected to cover around 99% of workers’ inpatient or day surgery bills.

Should an MDW receive cancer treatment in Singapore, her medical insurance may defray the treatment costs. The enhanced medical insurance requirements will better protect employers against large unforeseen medical bills. Employers can opt to purchase insurance plans with wider and higher coverage for greater peace of mind.

Lee Chung Wei
Divisional Director, Workplace Policy and Strategy Division

Include cancer screening in maids’ health checks, 26 Sep 2023, The Straits Times

I refer to the commentary, “I accompanied my helper of 28 years home for cancer treatment. It broke my heart” (Sept 24).

I had a similar experience with our Indonesian maid of 2½ years who was looking after my 93-year-old dad. In April, she complained of breast pain, and was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to the lungs and other organs.

As she wanted to be home with her loved ones, she went back to Indonesia for treatment. My dad, who had treated her as a daughter, was sad.

Unfortunately, we received news a few weeks ago that she had died.

There may be other such cases among maids in Singapore.

Employers are required to send maids for regular medical examinations. The authorities should mandate that cancer screening be included. This could perhaps be subsidised, with the cost shared between the Government and employer.

I believe employers would be willing to pay for this, especially for maids who are renewing their contracts and play a significant role in supporting the family. Most importantly, lives can be saved if cancer is detected early.

Ho Kok Wai