Insurance coverage for complementary medicine

I wrote this article to the Straits Times and an edited text was published online in ST FORUM on Jan 31, 2014.

As Dr Jeremy Lim put it in his recent article (How to keep patients
healthy and hospital free, dated Jan 25, 2014), the biggest challenge for
Singapore’s health care system is the rising prevalence of chronic
diseases such as cancer, heart diseases and diabetes. He suggested that
health care leaders should know how to keep people hospital free and

What Dr Lim and the authorities need to be aware is that many people in
Singapore are already striving to keep themselves healthy using their own
pocket money to pay for nutritional supplements, lifestyle therapies, and
safe complementary medicine (CM) such as Chinese medicine, herbal
medicine, nutritional therapy, Chi-gong, Yoga, and homeopathy. These other
health models are known to promote health; maintaining individual and
overall health and wellness as opposed to a reactive approach focused on
single-event interventions as in conventional medicine. Preventive health
is now understood to be regular physician checkups or participation in
procedures such as cancer screenings. This is not prevention in the true
sense of the word; rather, true prevention must involves a lifelong
healthy lifestyle practices. These may include diet, avoiding risky
behaviors such as smoking and the rational use of CM. As a cost saving
analysis and research study done by the Council of Responsible Nutrition
(USA) shows, the use of certain nutritional therapy or CM may also help
delay or prevent certain diseases and lower health care cost.

However, these other health care delivery systems (except TCM) are largely
ignored in our overall health promotion strategy to keep our people
healthy and lower health care costs. At the moment, we are only paid or
insured for conventional medicine and not paid or insured for healthy
food, lifestyle therapies, health supplements and complementary medicine.
How can people be motivated to adopt health practices when what they think
are good for themselves are not covered under insurance or at least
partially claimable?

I sincerely appeal to the health authorities and insurance companies to
look into coverage for CM, as practiced in advanced countries such as the
UK, Australia and Germany. And our country is urged to guarantee access to
the above modalities without additional and unnecessary costs. It is
demonstrated that such a system of combining the best of CM and
conventional medicine will lower the health care cost for the country.

About Sebastian Liew

Matthew Wood, the renowned American herbalist described Sebastian as ‘one of the most unique and talented practitioners of natural healing and herbalism.’ The New Paper (Singapore) called Sebastian Liew 'The Medicine Man'. Indeed, Sebastian is a qualified and registered Medical Herbalist (accredited by the National Herbalists Association of Australia), with a Master's degree in Herbal Medicine from the University of New England, Australia. He is the first medical herbalist in Singapore and is known to popularize phytotherapy (Western herbal medicine), European traditional medicine, and St Hildegard medicine (Germany) in Singapore and probably in Asia. Sebastian has 20 years clinical work experiences and treated numerous patients with different medical conditions from all age groups in his Singapore clinic. Sebastian authored the book, Leaf to Life: The Natural Approach to Slow Down Aging and Living a Healing Life, which set the fundamentals for healthy aging and the prevention or treatment for almost all diseases.
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