By: Ravi Philemon
I remember when I was a full time national serviceman some 30 years ago, there was a dental clinic in my camp. When I had a gum infection which was accompanied by severe pain, I was thankful that the dental clinic was around, and treated me for free. The cost of the treatment, with X-ray and minor surgery would have burnt a hole in the pockets of an NSF who earned a meagre allowance.
What’s worse is, hailing from a disadvantaged background I may have chosen to bite the pain and forego treatment because I could not afford it. Studies have shown how important oral health is and that problems in one’s mouth can affect the rest of one’s body. It is important for NSFs to be bodily fit at all times.
In this regard, I was surprised to find out that NSFs dental treatments are only subsidised up to 85 percent, up to a cap of $120 per year, and also that NSFs have to pay immediately after treatments in our dental Polyclinics. In other words, NSFs are required to pay first and be reimbursed later.
Dental treatment is not cheap and it is unreasonable to expect NSFs who only earn an allowance to pay first and expect to be reimbursed later. NSFs’ non-cosmetic dental treatments should be fully subsidised at restructured hospitals and polyclinics, just as outpatient medical treatment is.
I also note that NSFs who require to be hospitalised are only covered for up to 80% of the ward and meal charges at the servicemen’s eligible ward if hospitalisation is required. What is the rationale for co-payment, when the NSF may not have funds in his Medisave to co-pay for the hospitalisation?
MINDEF and Home Team should reconsider these benefits to NSFs and allow full-time national servicemen to enjoy full subsidies for non-cosmetic dental treatments and hospitalisation.