Admit it, these days you switch on your TV for Netflix instead of tuning in to your local TV channels. There’s just little to no good shows to watch on Channel 5 or 8.
The only exception would probably be the live telecast of the National Day Parade. And on the Sunday after that, the annual National Day Rally.
While the former is all joy and jubilation, the latter includes announcements such as CHAS, SERS, VERS, HIP and many more. These are closer to your heart because of the financial implications it has on your day-to-day.
The real question is, what does each of the announcements REALLY mean for you?
What is Community Health Assist Scheme?
CHAS is a medical subsidy programme that was originally available only for Singaporeans who fall under the pioneer generation, lower- and middle-income households.
The scheme mainly covers chronic conditions, with common ones such as diabetes and high blood pressure, included in the list. The full list can be found under the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) Chronic Disease Management Programme (CDMP).
Now, here’s the good news - the CHAS is now extended to all Singaporeans, regardless of age. That means you can get subsidies for chronic conditions under CHAS.
The amount of subsidies, however, is still dependent on your income level. More details will be revealed but for now, relish in the fact that you have more subsidies for your future medical bills.
What does the CHAS REALLY mean for you?
In Singapore’s context of high medical costs, this will help you in the long run. Chronic diseases, as the name implies, requires long-term medical treatment.
Contrary to popular belief, people can be struck by diabetes at an early age. Remember, poor health doesn’t discriminate based on age - it affects anyone if due care is not taken.
Considering the fact that you are now expected to co-pay at least 5% of your medical bills, the extended CHAS is definitely a change in the right direction.
What is Selective En-Bloc Redevelopment Scheme?
Bear with us if you’ve heard of SERS before as it provides context for what we’re about to say later.
SERS is, in short, a scheme that generously compensates home-owners whose HDB blocks or estates have been chosen by the Government to be taken back for redevelopment.
You won’t be left homeless though. You get to buy another flat that’s near your estate, which is offered at a discount.
The word selective would give you a clear understanding of how limited this scheme is - only an estimated 5% of HDB flats in Singapore are earmarked for this.
What is Voluntary Early Redevelopment Scheme?
VERS is similar to SERS, acting as a compensation given by the Government to home-owners whose estate are earmarked for development.
Unlike SERS, VERS is a voluntary scheme, so it has to be put to a vote by the residents for the en-bloc sale to go through. VERS is applicable only for units that are at least 70 years old.
Oh, did we mention that this won’t be implemented till 20 years later and that the compensation won’t be as generous as SERS?
Food for thought.
What does SERS and VERS REALLY mean for you?
This is going to be a conversation starter when you’re talking to your real estate agent about getting a resale unit.
Some home owners prefer to go with a mature estate. It could be for the location’s ease of access, developed amenities or any number of reasons.
Then, there’s a select group that estimates the potential of it falling under SERS. Given that it’s now confirmed only 5% of HDB flats would qualify for SERS, it’s a reality check for those who are banking on a payout from a mature estate.
As for VERS, have you had a chance to digest what we mentioned about it being 20 years down the road? Also, the less generous compensation which VERS offers compared to SERS?
Honestly, don’t consider SERS and VERS as a payout for your property investment. The endgame for both schemes is to give you a fair compensation for your home as part of the estate redevelopment.
In truth, there are too many factors other than your flat’s age to consider, which ranges from the location to its market value.
You could luck out and be eligible for an en-bloc sale, and at the same time get a spanking new flat. Or you could be stuck with a lot of old people.
Think about that before you start searching for your new home.
What is Home Improvement Programme?
All those lift upgrades, sheltered drop-off points and walkways, plus those new toilets that you are enjoying now? That’s part of the Government’s ongoing plan to make your home more hip.
Get it, HIP?
Moving on from the cold joke, HIP has been given a new lease of life to flats that are at least 30 years old. Originally applicable only for flats built up to 1986, this has been extended to units that are built up to 1997.
By extending this to “newer” flats, at least 230,000 flats will get a facelift and upgrade, which includes estates such as Pasir Ris, Yishun, Tampines and Jurong. Of course, your flat needs to be at least 30 years old before it qualifies for the upgrade.
What is Home Improvement Programme II?
Version 2 of HIP. In short, if your home went through the first HIP, it will be getting a second upgrade when it’s between 60 to 70 years old.
This begs the question - what else is there to upgrade? We don’t have the concrete details yet but more will be known when the HIP II scheme begins 10 years from now with the really old estates.
What does HIP and HIP II REALLY mean for you?
Let’s put it out there - buying a flat is and always should be about something that you’re comfortable with.
While both HIP and HIP II can and will affect whether you buy into a mature estate that’s at least 30 years old, it should not be the deciding factor.
Consider this as an unexpected bonus. The whole point of SERS, VERS, HIP and HIP II is to enhance your existing home.
But, to each his own. If you are placing a strong emphasis on these four schemes, know this - even the Government hasn’t exactly figured out how it’ll balance out the SERS vs VERS vs HIP debate.
For one, old flats can fall under SERS or VERS. But these flats also qualify for HIP II, the second upgrading phase. The whole point of SERS and VERS is to redevelop high-value estates. But if the Government determines the estate to be of less value, it might fall under HIP II.
At that point, will the flat run to the tail end of its 99-year lease? What happens after that?
What is the Merdeka Generation?
Merde what? As a Singaporean, you should be quite familiar with the term, a slogan closely associated with Singapore’s independence.
You would have heard of the Pioneer Generation. You know, Singaporeans born in 1949 and before, and were already Singaporeans by 1986, who got additional healthcare benefits offered by the Government.
The Merdeka Generation applies to Singaporeans born in the 1950s, and will be afforded subsidies for healthcare costs that includes outpatient treatment.
Other benefits include Medisave top-ups, MediShield Life premium subsidies and payouts for long-term care.
At least those in the 60s will no longer #FOMO, althugh the benefits are not as extensive as those from the Pioneer Generation.
What does Merdeka Generation REALLY mean for you?
Again, this boils down to health costs. If you
are old belong to the Merdeka Generation, you would have Eldershield to cover a substantial amount of your medical bills.
The additional benefits from the Merdeka Generation package would further defray the ever-rising healthcare cost in Singapore.
As for how much it’ll subsidise, you’ll have to wait till 2019 when the Government reveals the full details of the Merdeka Generation package.
So, what does the National Day Rally REALLY mean for you?
This year’s NDR is all about cost. Or how to reduce it. The point is, the cost of living in Singapore is not going to go down.
Now, we’re not too sure about using the free Wireless@SG to stream Netflix.
We do, however, agree that managing your costs such as eating at hawker centres and visiting polyclinics for medical consultations will help.
And we have to give due credit that the CHAS can even out the rising medical costs. Yes, even the dreaded co-payment that’s going to kick in.
But on the broader front, it’s apparent that these changes are the bare minimum. Looking at all the housing and healthcare initiatives that were announced, it’s apparent that these are long-tail measures to manage costs.
Moral of the story? Stay financially savvy.