You’ve probably seen or smelled it.
Yep. The haze is back.
As of 15 September, 1am, our entire island is officially within the ‘Unhealthy‘ Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) range.
If you’re wondering what that means… here’s a useful guide created by NEA which you can refer to:
And here’s another piece of bad news: it also means that your finances are going to take a hit…
Don’t believe me?
Here’s how your expenses might creep up thanks to the haze:
- Buying of air purifiers and N95 masks (they’re selling out fast, but MOH has assured the public that there are sufficient stocks in the warehouses and Government stockpiles)
- Leaving your air conditioner on even longer since you’re stuck at home and can’t leave the windows open
- Taking a cab instead of waiting for the bus or train because the haze is irritating your eyes and throat
- Paying for medication and consultation after seeing your nearby clinic for haze-related medical conditions
You get the picture.
Well… with regard to the last point.
You might be able to benefit with a little something called the Haze Subsidy Scheme if the current PSI levels persist.
It’s a scheme that is usually activated when the haze situation gets really bad.
When active, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will announce a list of participating clinics where you can get subsidised treatment for no more than $10.
But, really, let’s hope that the haze clears up and it doesn’t come to that…
Note: the Haze Subsidy Scheme hasn’t been activated yet. We’ll update accordingly if MOH decides to do so.
What Is The Haze Subsidy Scheme?
The Haze Subsidy Scheme first kicked in 2013, when close to $500,000 in government subsidies was doled out to Singaporeans affected by the haze.
Basically, the scheme allowed eligible Singaporeans to subsidise their medical bills for haze-related conditions.
It was activated in 2015 again when PSI levels hit a record of more than 300.
We got lucky after that as the last time the PSI breached the 100 mark was back in 2016 when the 24-hour reading hit 109 in the north of Singapore.
We’ve managed to go unscathed for three years, but as of yesterday, it looks like we might be in the thick of it again.
The Haze Subsidy Scheme hasn’t been activated yet (touchwood), but looking at the situation, there’s a possibility that we might be experiencing a haze situation that was as bad as the one we experienced back in 2015.
Haze Subsidy Scheme Eligibility
The following groups of Singapore citizens are eligible for the Haze Subsidy Scheme:
- All Singaporean children who are 18 years old and below (before their 18th birthday)
- All Singaporean elderly who are 65 years and above (after their 65th birthday)
In addition, Singaporeans who are under the following schemes are also eligible:
- Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS)
- Public Assistance (PA)
- Medical Fee Exemption Card (MFEC)
- Medical Fee Assistance Card (MFAC); and
- Pioneer Generation (PG)
Lastly, Singaporeans who earn $1,800 and below a month (averaged over the last six months) are also eligible.
Note: this is based on gross income and includes your basic, overtime pay, allowances, cash awards, commissions and bonuses.
Even if you don’t have a Health Assist card, fret not. All you have to do is fill up a self-declaration form which will be available at polyclinics and participating clinics islandwide.
How Much Can I Claim Under The Haze Subsidy Scheme?
If you’re eligible for the Haze Subsidy Scheme, you will fork out no more than $10 at participating clinics for haze-related conditions.
For those with the Pioneer Generation (PG) card, then you’ll pay no more than $5.
And if you are a Public Assistance (PA) cardholder, you do not need to pay when seeking treatment for haze-related conditions.
How Do I Know Which Clinic Is Participating In The Haze Subsidy Scheme?
The Ministry of Health (MOH) haze website will have a list of participating clinics should the scheme be activated.
Alternatively, you can look out for clinics with a Haze Subsidy Scheme poster, or a Public Health Preparedness Clinic (PHPC) decal that looks like this:
What If I Need To Visit The Clinic More Than Once?
If you need to see the doctor more than once for haze-related conditions, he or she will assess your condition first.
If it is haze-related again, you will still be eligible for subsidy under the Haze Subsidy, CHAS or PG package.
What Kinds Of Haze-Related Conditions Are Covered?
Here’s the official list of haze-related conditions which you can make a claim for under the Haze Subsidy Scheme:
- Allergic rhinitis
- Conjunctivitis aka “Pink Eye” (eg. swollen and red eyes)
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Upper Respiratory Tract Infections (eg. nasal obstruction, sore throat, sinusitis)
What Do I Need To Bring When Visiting The Clinic?
It’s the pretty standard stuff that you bring along when you visit the doctor:
- A personal identity card like your NRIC or Driver’s Licence
- CHAS, MFE, MFA, PA, or PG card (if you have one)
Can I Get Masks From The Clinics? Are N95 Masks Covered Under The Scheme?
Unfortunately, N95 masks (or any other masks for the matter) are not covered under the Haze Subsidy Scheme.
Based on MOH’s recommendations, “generally-healthy individuals do not need to use N95 masks when they are outdoors” especially if it’s for “short exposure”.
Short exposure refers to situations like:
- Commuting from home to work or school
- Travelling from the bus stop to the shopping mall
- Walking from home to the nearby kopitiam to dabao dinner
Dr Jim Teo Yeow Kwan, a respiratory physician and intensivist practising at Gleneagles Hospital and Parkway East Hospital, also confirmed that “unless you are spending long hours working outdoors, the N95 is not required below a 24-hour PSI reading of 300”.
But for those who are more vulnerable to changes in air quality, such as those with asthma or sensitive nasal tracts, please take the necessary precautionary steps and take care!