Photo of Tharman Shanmugaratnam with hell note

When questioned why the poor have to pay to much out of their pockets for healthcare, Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam criticised Japan saying that the Japanese “visit their physicians 3 times more than Singaporeans” and abuse their universal healthcare system:

“Money will then have to be raised. There is no such thing as free healthcare in the world, as the bill is ultimately paid via taxes and insurance premiums. What is key is striking the right balance of individual spending, insurance and government subsidy collected through taxes. If you rely too much on people paying for themselves, it will be inequitable. The poor will suffer. If you rely too much on insurance, where insurance is not just for big hospital bills like in MediShield Life but is much more comprehensive, then you get a problem of doctors overprescribing or the system gets overused. With the Japanese universal health insurance system, for example, people visit physicians thrice as often as in other advanced countries and stay in hospitals two or three times longer.”

Japanese have the longest lifespan in the world and it’s healthcare system is considered one of the world’s best.

The former Finance Minister also said he does not know whether Singaporeans are paying too much or too little for healthcare:

“Currently, the Government pays 70 per cent of the costs in the subsidised healthcare system. On whether the Government has ascertained that as the optimal level, there is no precise figure that we will claim to be optimal.”

Again without providing any fact or figures, Minister Tharman then attacked Finland saying that young Finnish citizens are leaving their country because the Finland government spent too much on healthcare:

“Finland, for instance, has a universal system where rich and poor get benefits. And it is getting harder to afford as the population ages. This has led to cutbacks in other areas such as higher education, with young people leaving the country.”