(Delivered in Parliament on 29 February 2016)
I rise in support of the bill.
I support the proposed amendments to the bill in respect of the Home Protection Scheme (HPS). The HPS is a mortgage-reducing insurance that protects members and their families against losing their homes in the event of death or permanent incapacity before their housing loans are paid up. It is compulsory for any HDB home owner who is using his or her CPF savings to pay the monthly housing loan instalments for his or her HDB flat. The Scheme does not cover private residential properties, executive condominiums (ECs) or privatised Housing and Urban Development Company (HUDC) flats. Buyers can only opt out of the Scheme if they have taken a similar mortgage-reducing insurance policy.
The Bill seeks to enhance insurance coverage under the HPS. Under the proposed amendments, a CPF member who is insured under the Scheme will now be allowed to make a claim under the Scheme for terminal illness and total permanent disability, even though the member is not incapacitated from ever continuing in any employment. If this is a substantial change, it will represent a departure from the existing ruling under the current Act and it will be a welcomed change as it may provide more flexibility for members who are caught in different situations. I note that the same change is also effected in the same bill for the Dependents’ Protection Insurance Scheme.
However, it seems to me from a plain reading of the amendment bill that the only situations where a member can make a claim under the Scheme for terminal illness and total permanent disability, even though the member is not incapacitated from ever continuing in any employment are if (1) the member is suffering from terminal illness and is said by a registered medical practitioner to be expected to result in death within 12 months or (2) the member has suffered total or permanent disability of less than two eyes, two limbs or one eye and one limb. The scenarios seem rather limited. May the minister please clarify whether this is what the bill intended? Does the bill provide for any other situation and where is this provided in the bill? .
If the bill does provide for any other scenario, I am concerned that the Act may not be clear enough about the circumstances that may apply to the new situation where a CPF member who is insured under the Scheme will now be allowed to make a claim under the Scheme for terminal illness and total permanent disability, even though the member is not incapacitated from ever continuing in any employment. I seek the Minister’s assurance that the CPF Board will provide clear communication to CPF members for the circumstances which may apply under this proposed amendment.
The Bill also seeks to allow a non-spouse member who is a co-owner of a property to pay the premium for the HPS Scheme of the other co-owner. I welcome this change as this recognises the possibility as well as perhaps the increasing occurrence of the situation where co-owners may not be spouses. For example in the case of a flat which is owned by a man and his mother and the man can make payment of the premium for the Scheme on behalf of his mother. The change will address the current anomaly in the present Act.
Madam, I refer to the amendment in clause 28(h) of the Bill whereby there seems to be an exception to the Board’s right not to pay under the Scheme where a member was suffering from an illness when he joins the Scheme. May the minister clarify what would be these circumstances where the board may permit a member to join the Scheme even though the Board may be aware of the member suffering from an illness at the time of joining the Scheme?
Madam, I understand that under the current Act, people with certain pre-existing illnesses are not covered by the Act. Can the minister please confirm whether such members will still not be covered by the Scheme after the amendment? Will the minister consider allowing special form of coverage under the Scheme perhaps on a case by case basis and even on a different premium?
The bill also provides for regulations to be made to prescribe the circumstances where the CPF Board may issue or reinstate an insurance cover or pay claims where the Board is not liable to do so under sections 36(9) or (10). May the minister please clarify the intention behind this proposed inclusion?
I also support the amendments which allows greater flexibility in the use of moneys in the CPF member’s retirement account, by permitting the member to use these moneys without imposing a further charge on his/her property when there is already a CPF charge on his / her property.
I also support the amendments which allows the transfer of moneys from the member’s retirement account to another member’s account for the purchase of a HDB flat.
Madam, I support the bill.