healthcare-in-singapore

Healthcare in Singapore

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Health Insurance and the Healthcare System of Singapore Explained

Healthcare for non-residents in Singapore is excellent. However, getting the care you need will be harder and more expensive than it is for Permanent Residents and citizens.

In this section, we give you an overview of the healthcare system and health insurance in Singapore and share information about finding a family doctor and giving birth.

We also discuss the details about private health insurance packages, what they offer, and how much they cost. The section covers MediSave, MediShield Life, ElderShield, and MediFund health insurance schemes, and explain who they are for.

This is all vital information that will help you feel safe in Singapore and ensure you live the healthiest and happiest life possible in the country.

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How Healthcare Works in Singapore?

If you are going to relocate to Singapore, you can rest assured that in the case of an emergency or illness, you will be left in the good hands of the Singaporean healthcare system. However, there are some important pros and cons of the Singaporean healthcare system that you should know about before you make the big move. Read on as we explain everything you need to know.

Healthcare System in Singapore

The Ministry of Health, controlled by the city-state’s government, is in charge of the medical system in Singapore. It helps provide information and raise awareness about health-related issues, and it makes healthcare accessible and monitors them to ensure high-quality services.

The MOH is committed to:

  • Medical excellence
  • The promotion of good health
  • The reduction of illness
  • Access to good and affordable healthcare for all Singaporeans, appropriate to their needs.

Singapore Healthcare Facts

  • Often ranked among the top countries in the world for healthcare standards.
  • The lowest infant mortality rate in the world at 2.3 deaths per 1,000 births.
  • Has nine acute care hospitals:
    • Alexandra Hospital
    • Changi General Hospital
    • KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
    • Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
    • National University Hospital
    • Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
    • Sengkang General Hospital
    • Singapore General Hospital
    • Tan Tock Seng Hospital
  • Has eight specialty centers:
    • National Cancer Centre Singapore
    • National Dental Centre Singapore
    • National Heart Centre Singapore
    • National Neuroscience Institute
    • National Skin Centre
    • National University Cancer Institute, Singapore
    • National University Heart Centre, Singapore
    • Singapore National Eye Centre
  • Has four community hospitals:
    • Bright Vision Hospital
    • Jurong Community Hospital
    • Sengkang Community Hospital
    • Yishun Community Hospital
  • Has one psychiatric hospital:
    • Institute of Mental Health
  • Non-residents do not benefit from government subsidies on healthcare and must pay for their own treatment.

Does Singapore Have Free Healthcare?

Although healthcare is not free in Singapore, the government pays for much of the costs associated with the medical system, such as paying for most hospitals, making them public, and paying the salaries of most doctors in the city-state.

Singaporean patients can only use their MediSave coverage to pay for pre-approved drugs, while the government subsidizes many medical bills. MediSave is a health insurance scheme similar to Medicare in the United States.

What does Public Healthcare Cover?

To understand how to get health insurance in Singapore and how it works, you need to be aware of the four main types of coverage, their average costs, and what they offer.

It is mandatory for Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents to have some sort of health cover. When it comes to private and public health insurance in Singapore, there are several excellent options that you can choose from.

The MOH provides the MediSave national savings scheme, which helps Central Provident Fund (CPF) members to afford hospitalization, surgery, and certain outpatient expenses for themselves or immediate family members. Find out more about this scheme and others in the following section.

MediShield Life: Assistance for Larger Medical Bills

To help those with serious illnesses, the government founded a new plan for healthcare in Singapore. Introduced in late 2015 and replacing the previous MediShield scheme, MediShield Life works as a so-called “catastrophic illness insurance scheme” that makes provisions for hospitalization, surgery, and selected outpatient treatment.

Every citizen or Permanent Resident is automatically insured via MediShield Life unless they choose to opt out of the program.

MediShield and MediShield Life premiums in Singapore Dollars in 2019/2020

 

Age next birthday Current annual MediShield premiums (SGD) Current annual MediShield Life premiums before subsidy (SGD) Average MediShield Life premiums after subsidy
1-20 50 (36 USD) 130 (95 USD) 57.50 (42.05 USD)
21-30 66 (48 USD) 195 (143 USD) 76 (56 USD)
31-40 105 (77 USD) 310 (227 USD) 121 (88 USD)
41-50 220 (161 USD) 435 (318 USD) 233.50 (170.74 USD)
51-60 345 (252 USD) 630 (461 USD) 362 (264.71 USD)
61-65 455 (333 USD) 755 (552 USD) 468 (342.22 UD)
66-70 540 (395 USD) 815 (596 USD) 547 (400 USD)
71-73 560 (409 USD) 885 (647 USD) 572.75 (417 USD)
74-75 646 (472 USD) 975 (713 USD) 654.5 (478.60 USD)
76-78 775 (567 USD) 1,130 (826 USD) 750.25 (548.61 USD)
79-80 865 (633 USD) 1,175 (859 USD) 797 (582,80 USD)
81-83 1,123 (821 USD) 1,250 (914 USD) 893.50 (653,36 USD)
84-85 1,150 (841 USD) 1,430 (1046 USD) 991.75 (725.21 USD)
86-88 1,190 (870 USD) 1,500 (1097 USD) 980.25 (716,80 USD)
89-90 1,190 (870 USD) 1,500 (1097 USD) 980.25 (716,80 USD)
>90 1,530 (1119 USD) 937.25 (685.35 USD)

 

These premiums can be taken from your or your family’s MediSave account. However, even if you have MediShield Life healthcare in Singapore, you still pay a yearly deductible sum before you get any reimbursements. There will also be co-payments on each fee.

Again, you can take the co-payments from your MediSave account as long as you do not meet the withdrawal limit for particular conditions. You must pay the rest in cash.

MediSave

Established in 1984, MediSave is the oldest component of public healthcare in Singapore. Every Singaporean and Permanent Resident employee needs to put away an annual 8 to 10.5% of their income. The money is collected in a dedicated savings account, where it accrues tax-free interest. The exact percentage depends on the person’s age. Contributions are lowest for those under 35 and highest for the 50+ age group.

Also, those who earn less than 1,500 SGD (1,100 USD) per month contribute to MediSave at special rates. The self-employed pay into the plan according to their net income. You can accumulate up to 49,800 SGD (36,500 USD) in your MediSave account — this limit is called the Basic Healthcare Sum (BHS). Any overflow goes into different CPF funds (e.g. your retirement account).

Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents can use their MediSave money to pay for specific medical costs at all public healthcare institutions, as well as approved private hospitals and clinics.

Those costs mainly include bills for inpatient hospital care, day surgery, psychiatric treatment, specific chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes, asthma or depression), therapies for people with cancer or HIV-positive patients, childbirth, and selected health screenings.

For a complete and up-to-date list of treatments covered by the MediSave scheme, see the CPF website.

Note that there are certain daily, monthly, or yearly withdrawal limits on MediSave healthcare in Singapore. All fees exceeding those limits must be paid for by other means. Your immediate family members (parents, spouse, and children) can provide for you from their account, but limits apply to these contributions as well.

ElderShield: Supporting You Through Your Later Years

The third pillar of government-subsidized healthcare in Singapore is called ElderShield. As the name implies, this insurance scheme assists elderly patients with severe long-term disabilities.

Singaporean citizens and Permanent Residents are automatically enrolled at the age of 40 but have the option to opt out and join at a later date. From the age of entry to the age of 65, those insured via ElderShield pay a fixed yearly premium. The older a person is at the age of entry, the more it costs. This is to ensure people pay a similar amount overall.

For example, a 40-year-old Singaporean woman who joined the scheme after September 2007 will pay an annual lump sum of about 217 SGD (160 USD) for the next 26 years. The premiums for men are usually lower, due to their lower life expectancy.

If ElderShield participants become severely disabled in old age (i.e. they need help with tasks, such as washing, dressing, or feeding themselves) the program assists with nursing care. They get monthly cash payouts of 400 SGD (290 USD) for up to six years to cover some of the related costs.

There are three government-approved insurance providers in Singapore that offer ElderShield plans: Aviva, Great Eastern, and NTUC Income. If you want bonus coverage with higher payouts or a longer period of time, you have to buy so-called ElderShield supplements from one of these three companies.

MediFund: Ensuring Healthcare Remains Affordable for Citizens

Last but not least, a further healthcare scheme in Singapore caters to the needs of the poor and the elderly. Singaporean citizens who cannot afford their medical bills can apply for financial assistance under MediFund, MediFund Junior, or MediFund Silver.

MediFund Junior is aimed at helping children in needy families, while MediFund Silver is aimed at elderly people. They receive treatment only at accredited facilities. There they have to talk to a Medical Social Worker about government aid.

The reimbursement they get is decided on a case-by-case basis. It normally depends on their health issues, their medical bills, and their social and financial situation. MediFund includes citizens only. Even Permanent Residents without citizenship are not eligible for this program.

How does Healthcare Work in Singapore?

Healthcare in Singapore is split between the public sector, where citizens and Permanent Residents benefit from around 25% subsidies from the Singaporean government, and private health insurers, who cover non-residents living in the country. 

Singapore Healthcare Costs

Once you become a Permanent Resident in Singapore and are eligible to receive support from the Central Provident Fund via your social security contributions, getting public healthcare will be cheaper. For now, here are some examples of common healthcare treatments and their general costs:

Treatment Approximate cost (SGD) Approximate cost (USD)
Childbirth (no cesarean) at a private hospital 6,450 4,730
Childbirth with cesarean at a private hospital 17,000 12,460
GP consultation 20 15
Specialist consultation, e.g. dermatologist or gynecologist 120 88
Dentist check-up 30 22
Tooth extraction 100 73
Optician vision test 60 44
A&E consultation 115 84

 

According to a report by insurer Aon, the costs of medical care in Singapore are increasing by 10% compared to 8% globally, while general consumer prices are increasing at 1.8%.

Why is Singapore Healthcare so Expensive?

Private insurance can be expensive in Singapore, but you are benefiting from the availability of excellent hospitals and medical care. In 2014, Bloomberg put Singapore as the most efficient healthcare system in the world. In 2018 it was still as high as second, which gives you an idea of the standards you will get for your money.

Moreover, the average salary in Singapore is a relatively high 67,152 SGD (49,218 USD), so healthcare in the city-state should be affordable.

Surprisingly, it was reported by the New York Times in 2017 that Singapore actually spends considerably less on its healthcare system, and yet produces a higher standard of care.

An Overview of Private Health Insurance

In this section, we explain how to get health insurance in Singapore, how much it costs, and everything else you need to know about medical insurance.

How does Health Insurance Work?

The Private Medical Insurance Scheme (PMIS) in Singapore combines MediShield Life, plus the added benefits you get from private insurers. You just need to contact the private insurer to sign up and they will deal with any issues concerning this integrated plan (a combination of MediShield Life and private insurance).

The Integrated Shield Plan (ISP) covers things that MediShield Life alone does not, such as stays in private and public hospitals in the best wards.

Do You Need Health Insurance in Singapore?

If you are a Permanent Resident in Singapore, you must have MediShield Life. If you have no insurance, you could face a bill of tens of thousands of dollars if you have to go into hospital for treatment. While you are still classed as a foreigner, you will have to use private insurance.

Private Health Insurance in Singapore

As only Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents qualify for government subsidies to cover medical care, when you first relocate to Singapore, you will either have to pay inflated costs for treatment, or you will need to sign up to a private health insurance package.

Find out about health insurance companies in the next section. It is a good idea to compare these packages before you move so you can budget for medical expenses for you and any family members.

Types of Health Insurance Plans

The Central Provident Fund Board recommends the following companies for private insurance coverage:

Health Insurance Coverage

Please note the following were available on Saturday, 9 February 2019:

  • NTUC Income, which appears in the above list, offers additional one-year health insurance coverage for your baby if they were born between 2016 and 2019. There is an Enhanced IncomeShieldand an IncomeShield Standard Plan.
  • AIG offers several things that MediShield Life does not, such as a weekly allowance for up to 24 months if you are unable to work and suffer a loss of income.
  • Aviva’s MyCoreCI Plan covers you even if you have certain existing health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a high BMI (body mass index). This plan provides coverage of 500,000 SGD (366,465 USD) and protects you against issues, such as diabetic complications like ketoacidosis and nephropathy. You will get 20% of your Total Premiums Paid at the end of the policy term if you do not make any claims. Also, you can get access to a health coach and nutritionist as part of the plan.
  • AXA’s Mum’s Advantage plan covers women whether they are having just one child or several. The plan helps provide savings for your child’s future and protects them from 18 illnesses.
  • Great Eastern Life’s Critical Care Advantage plan protects you from the early, intermediate, and critical stages of an illness. With this plan, you are covered for 92 different medical conditions and you will not pay higher premiums after claiming.
  • PRUExtragives you 365 days of follow-up Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment.
  • Raffles Medical Group has a range of industry and employer-specific health insurance. For example, their Oil and Gas Plan gives your employees medical cover wherever they are based.
  • American International Assurance’s Premier Disability Cover offers you monthly payouts if you are unable to work, plus income top-ups, and more.

Average Cost of Health Insurance in Singapore

In 2018, Pacific Prime Singapore released a report which ranked the cost of health insurance in 100 countries. Singapore ranked in the top 20 most expensive countries in the three main categories used in the report.

  • Singapore’s individual insurance plans were the ninth most expensive of the 100 countries, with an average price of 6,140 SGD (4,500 USD).
  • Singapore was the sixth most expensive country for family insurance plans at 18,959 SGD (13,895 USD).
  • And it was ninth most expensive for family and insurance plan prices together at 12,550 SGD (9,200 USD).

How to Find a Doctor or Dentist

Before you become a Permanent Resident in Singapore, it is likely your best option for regular care by a doctor or dentist is to go private. You will not enjoy subsidies at public health centers yet, so you might as well enjoy the shorter waiting times for seeing private physicians.

How to Find a Family Doctor

Good news: with the private health insurance you will almost certainly require as a non-resident, you will benefit from shorter waiting times once you find a doctor.

There are around 1,500 medical clinics in Singapore, most of which have a private family doctor, which provides a wide choice. You can narrow the options using the Singapore Medical Council family physician search function.

How to Find a Specialist

Singapore Medical Specialists Centre provides a range of professionals with expertise in issues from gastroscopy, colonoscopy, mammograms, biopsies, and gynecology.

You can find specialists in:

  • Gastroenterology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Otolaryngology
  • Radiology
  • Senior physician

The site is a “one-stop center” in the Paragon Shopping Centre on Orchard Road.

Moreover, you can search for a specialist by their name and practice or by region on the Singapore Medical Council website.

How to Find a Dentist

You can find a dentist with the Singapore Dental Council. The council helps regulate dental practices in Singapore and aims to promote high standards of oral health and the dental profession in the city-state.

Doctor’s Appointments in Singapore

When you go to see a family physician or medical specialist in Singapore, there are some things to take care of before your appointment: ask your insurance provider if they will reimburse you for treatment with your clinic of choice. Also, do not forget to check with the clinic staff which payment methods they prefer.

Doctors in Singapore often expect you to pay their fees immediately. Make sure to bring some cash. Finally, do not forget your ID and your medical records, which you will likely have to take with you each time you visit, even if you have already registered at the doctor’s office.

Your appointment with a local physician should not differ much from a doctor’s visit back home. There is one major difference, though: if you suffer from certain contagious diseases, doctor-patient confidentiality does not necessarily apply. In such cases, doctors in Singapore are required to pass on some information to national health authorities. Please see the Relocating to Singapore article for further details on this.

Average Waiting Time to See a Doctor in Singapore

The average waiting time to see a doctor in Singapore has come under scrutiny in recent years. In a survey by Singapore’s Ministry of Health, 85.9% of Singaporeans said they were satisfied with healthcare, but 90% said waiting times to see a doctor, get medication, get an appointment, and to get a bed at an A&E, needed to be improved. However, it was reported that waiting times were nowhere near as bad as in the UK, for example.

Data by Statista from May 2018 showed the following waiting times in different areas. The aptly-named Pioneer polyclinic came in front with the shortest average waiting time.

Polyclinic Average waiting time (minutes)
Punggol 69
Tampines 69
Woodlands 55
Pasir Ris 54
Hougang 52
Ang Mo Kio 45
Bedok 45
Yishun 44
Pioneer 41

 

As far as the language barrier is concerned, you should not have to worry. Plenty of doctors in Singapore are used to treating foreign patients. The country’s official languages are Mandarin, English, Malay, and Tamil, but many physicians may speak other languages, such as varieties of Chinese.

If you prefer to communicate in another language, it is best to get in touch with your insurance provider or your embassy. Insurance companies often have international patient centers. They may be able to give you information on doctors from your home country or send an interpreter to the clinic with you.

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Giving Birth in Singapore

New mothers will notice a range of benefits of giving birth in Singapore, even for non-residents, such as excellent antenatal options and classes, excellent gynecologists and obstetricians, and even VIP maternity care. However, please note that it is not possible to give birth in Singapore for citizenship.

The Benefits of Giving Birth in Singapore

  • Singapore Citizens can qualify for the Baby Bonus Scheme, which gives a cash gift of up to 14,000 SGD (10,260 USD) for your first and second-born children; up to 22,000 SGD (16,125 USD) for your third and fourth-born children; and up to 28,000 SGD (20,520 USD) for your fifth child or more.
  • Singapore offers many highly-qualified doctors and fantastic facilities.
  • You can pay to use a private room at a hospital.
  • You can enlist the care of a doula or private midwife.
  • You can find prenatal yoga classes in Singapore, which can help you relax your mind and body.
  • MediSave can save you money on expenses prior to the birth of your children, such as ultrasound scans and medication. Expect this amount to add up to 900 SGD (660 USD). However, you must be a Permanent Resident or Singaporean citizen to benefit from this.

Having a Baby in Singapore as a Foreigner

You can give birth in Singapore if you are a foreigner or a Permanent Resident, but the child will only get automatic Singapore citizenship if one of its parents is a Singapore citizen. A Permanent Resident (PR) can apply for citizenship two years after getting PR status.

The Cost of Having a Baby in Singapore

Bear in mind that giving birth in Singapore is not cheap. The cost of having a baby in Singapore for a normal delivery at a public hospital starts at around 4,000 SGD (2,930 USD) for a two-night stay.

If you are planning on having a baby in Singapore as a foreigner or find out that you are pregnant after moving there, you should first check if your insurance covers the costs.

Giving birth in Singapore without health insurance could be expensive – it can cost nearly 10,000 SGD (7,330 USD) to give birth in a private ward at Gleneagles Hospital. However, it can also cost less than 2,000 SGD (1,465 USD) in other hospitals.

So, depending on your choice of obstetrician or gynecologist and hospital, the costs can vary greatly. Even if you do not plan on having a baby in Singapore, you should still find an obstetrician or gynecologist, as you will need at least annual health checkups.

Contraception is widely available, and it will not be hard to find a gynecologist if you are seeking an abortion.

Moreover, there are many confinement nannies in Singapore if you feel you need assistance in the first four to eight weeks after giving birth.

Registering the Birth

Last but not least, do not forget to register the birth of your child. If you have your baby at the hospital, the staff can help you with this. Otherwise, a parent or official proxy must go to the Registry of Births & Deaths at the Citizen Services Centre within 14 days of the birth.

What should you bring?

  • Singaporean identity cards (NRIC)
  • Notification of live birth from either the hospital or the medical staff who delivered the baby outside the hospital
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Passports
  • Entry permits
  • D/ED cards from immigration clearance

If a proxy is registering the birth, they will need to bring a letter of authorization from the parents. Moreover, you may have to register the birth with your embassy as well.

InterNations GO!
by InterNations GO!
17 June 2019
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