As mentioned on the first page of our guide to healthcare in Singapore, the city-state has a fairly extensive health insurance system. However, government-sponsored medical care via the Central Provident Fund (CPF) is only available for citizens and permanent residents. Expatriates have to provide for their health insurance cover with a private insurance scheme. There are plenty of providers: Singapore is an expat hub, and lots of Singaporeans invest in private top-up insurance to supplement public healthcare.
For some foreign workers and employees, healthcare cover is a legal requirement. If you stay in the country with a work visa for skilled and unskilled workers (e.g. an S pass), your employer has to provide you with health insurance. However, this hardly applies to the typical expat.
Expats with special expertise, managerial jobs, or executive positions usually have an Employment Pass for Singapore. Unlike the S pass holders, they don’t need to show proof of health insurance when they apply for their visa and/or permit. However, Singapore’s outstanding medical care comes at a price. Oftentimes, you must pay your hospital bills in cash or leave at least a substantial deposit. Even if you have an above-average income, you should take the necessary precautions for serious illnesses and medical emergencies.
Business travelers and short-term visitors should make sure to have travel insurance that covers Singapore and other Southeast Asian countries, if necessary. Expatriates who plan to live in Singapore for a while usually sign up with an international health insurance company. This applies particularly if they want to receive private care.
Since they aren’t part of the public healthcare schemes, expats are exempt from financial contributions to CPF insurance. However, this also means that their medical bills are not subsidized by the Singaporean government. The bills will therefore be, on average, higher. Emergency treatment for foreign residents is the only exception to this no-subsidies rule: A&E charges at public hospitals are the same for all, no matter their nationality.
Insurance companies offer a variety of plans for expatriates. The core plans will usually cover inpatient treatment as well as things such as a room, medical examination, and cancer treatment. If you wish to also be covered for things such as outpatient and dental care, you will need to opt for the additional extras on offer by the various expat health insurance providers. This will add to your cost of living.
To give you an idea of prices, for a private appointment with a senior consultant at the Singapore General Hospital, you need to pay a fee of around 150 SGD. However, at one of Singapore’s polyclinics, non-residents only pay around 50 SGD for a similar service.
Expat insurance plans may also be available through your employer’s HR department. If you don’t want to shop around among various insurance companies, like Axa, Aviva, Bupa, Cigna, etc., an independent insurance specialist can help you compare offers. Before you sign anything, there are some things you should definitely keep in mind.
With Kuala Lumpur just around the corner, some prefer to go to Malaysia for major treatment — the medical standards in the Malaysian capital have improved tremendously while the costs are still a good deal lower than in Singapore.
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