Expat Health Insurance and Private Medical Care in Singapore


Singapore appears to have successfully solved the problem of how to run an efficient health care system as it has the lowest rate for infant deaths in the world. A great thing about Singapore is that it achieves this with very low expenditure in health care, taken as a proportion of its GDP. In 2014, this stood at 4.9% of its GDP against the UK at 9.1% of its GDP (Data.worldbank.org, 2017).

The majority of Singaporeans know that it is essential to buy medical insurance through a state insurance scheme, such as Medisave. Medisave will cover most of the main treatment costs and your accounts will be held tax-free and earn interest, which becomes part of the individual’s estate after their death. Some money can be withdrawn, by the account holder, to pay for certain approved categories of medical treatment, which includes surgery, hospital stays and some out-patient fees. Medisave is part of the mandatory government pension scheme which is funded from central funds, from employers and also from employees, and is designed to be adequate to fund the countries retirement and health care programs.

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Additional state cover provision

As well as having Medisave, there is an additional state top-up insurance plan called MediShield. This is a national insurance scheme to cover for major illnesses that are not generally covered by Medisave. Medishield is used to cover chronic diseases and other serious conditions, however individuals may still need to meet a proportion of their costs from their own pockets. Other insurers are Medifund, which provides a means tested benefit, based on an individual’s financial circumstances, and Eldercare, which covers another area the government has introduced, which provides a fund for those with chronic diseases in old age.

Hospitals in Singapore

Within Singapore, there are 29 state-run hospitals and 14 independent hospitals and individuals using the state hospitals can purchase extra services. Through this, you do get to choose, and pay accordingly, for things such as single-bed wards or open multi-bedded wards.

Countries around the world who have strong economies like Singapore, can usually be expected to emerge well on international comparison lists such as on the proportion of GDP that they spend on health care.  Asian countries are generally known to be better at looking after their elderly within the family and often their high levels of population concentration can help to aid their health care planning.

The private healthcare sector 

Due to it being a centre of excellence for treating Western expatriates and wealthy Asians across the continent, Singapore’s private medical sector has evolved massively. However, Singapore’s high fees structure could put Singapore’s position at the top of the value for money table, at risk and thereby affecting the financing in the public sector. Some expatriates are now seeking to be treated in Kuala Lumpur, due to the costs being lower. Doctors in Singapore tend to work independently as opposed to being under contract and as such, they tend not to have a standard schedule of fees and will general set their own rates.

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Health Insurance Premiums

It is very important for expatriates in Singapore to have medical cover. InterGlobal comes out to be generally the least expensive of a list of UK international insurance companies.

Medisave is known to be used to pay hospital expenses incurred by individuals and their dependents and the scheme helps members to build savings for their health care needs and it is possible to use your Medisave account to help pay MediShield premiums.

MediShield is a national health insurance plan which can help individuals pay hospital bills incurred for serious illnesses. The annual premiums increase, depending on the age, from S$33 at age below 30 to s$1,123 for ages between 84 and 85 but there is no cover for people over the age of 85.  ElderShield, provides basic financial protection for those who need long-term care but this requires a level premium which is calculated, based upon the entry-age if the individual, and premiums are payable annually until members reach 65 years of age.

Average costs for consultations

In polyclinics, average fees for out-patient consultations are about S$8. Singapore citizens aged 65 and above, children up to 18 years and all school children, are given up to 75% concession in their consultations and treatment fees, whereas other citizens are only given 50% concession.

Health risks in Singapore

In the Singaporean climate, respiratory diseases with expats are very common and avian flu, which is caused by viruses adapted to birds, has been fluctuating on and off for quite a few years and the virus hasn’t yet disappeared completely, even though cases have recently been in decline. There are often outbreaks of potentially life threatening diseases in many places throughout the world but Singapore’s tidiness and cleanliness ensures that these diseases are kept to a minimum in Singapore.

Influenza is a germ that is best controlled by hygiene, so it is very important to keep washing your hands on a regular basis. As a guard against getting bird flu, you should make sure any meats are cooked properly before eating and it is important to be vigilant when travelling within the region, whilst the bird flu threat exists, and vaccination advice and normal precautionary measures should also be followed.  Examples of H1N1 influenza symptoms are fever, sore throat, cough, diarrhoea, eye infections, pneumonia, muscle aches and breathing difficulties.

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