Singapore’s health care system is one of the best in the world, and the government has designed it in such a way that all citizens and permanent residents have access to affordable health care while at the same time promoting individual responsibility. To become a permanent resident, however, is extremely difficult, and so the majority of foreigners living in Singapore are simply visa holders(1). As such, they don’t contribute towards any of the health programmes and are therefore excluded from public health care coverage. Consequently, they must pay out of their own pocket or take out private insurance.
(1) Long term pass : Work Permit (WP), Student Pass, Long Term Visit Pass (LTVP), Dependent Pass, In-Principle Approvals (IPA), Letters of Eligibility (LOE) and Temporary work permit (TWP).
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Health insurance for expats in Singapore
How does the healthcare system work in Singapore?
Singapore’s universal health care is structured around public and private facilities. The health care is subsidised for Singaporeans and permanent residents because they contribute to Singapore’s “three Ms”, namely, Medisave, Medishield, and Medifund:
- Medisave is a mandatory savings plan whereby 4% - 10.5% of a working person’s wages go towards the plan; these individual savings allow everyone to finance their health and retirement costs.
- Medishield insurance is an affordable backup to Medisave and kicks in when all funds in the former have been used up―although non compulsory, most Singaporeans consider it worthwhile.
- Finally, Medifund is an endowment fund set up by the government; it provides a safety net for patients who face financial difficulties after drawing on their payments from MediSave and MediShield―preference is given to the old and young.
As non-permanent residents do not contribute to any of these programmes and are therefore excluded, they have to pay for their health costs themselves, which can become extremely expensive.
How to choose health insurance in Singapore: local or international?
For expatriates in Singapore, health care costs can quickly spiral upwards especially if you need consultations, diagnostic tests or surgical intervention. Similarly, dental costs are high and can end up being exorbitant. Foreigners living in Singapore should therefore consider international health insurance to cover any potential medical or dentistry requirements.
Many Singaporean employers offer local health insurance to their non-resident employees. However, the policies offered are rarely sufficient: beneficiaries are not always covered, certain treatments are excluded (e.g., optical, dental care, maternity), and coverage may be limited by very low caps on expenses per service. Moreover, they are often customised to only cover Singapore.
This is why the vast majority of expatriates double their local insurance with international health insurance that includes greater coverage, less limitations and even care provided in other countries (depending on the policy).
What is the cost of healthcare in Singapore?
For a consultation with a specialist, you will need to pay between SGD 110 and 160 (€70 to €102)
APRIL International up to 102 €*
Out-of-pocket expenses 0€**
HOSPITALISATION - MATERNITY
A natural delivery without complications (3 days in hospital) costs between SGD 8,600 and 13,000 (€5,500 to €8,300)
APRIL International up to 6000 €*
Out-of-pocket expenses 2300€**
HOSPITALISATION - APPENDICITIS
A laparoscopic appendectomy (2 days in hospital) will cost you between SGD 22,000 and 26,000 (€14,000 to €16,600)
APRIL International up to 16600 €*
Out-of-pocket expenses 0€**
Reasonable costs of care in the private sector, APRIL International data 12/2019.
* Example of reimbursement with MyHealth International - Comfort
** Example of the amount to be paid by the insured after reimbursement
Care in Singapore
Choosing hospitals in Singapore?
Singapore’s health system is divided among public and private hospitals, polyclinics and private general practitioners (GPs). There are 16 public hospitals, 8 private hospitals, 20 polyclinics and approximately 1,700 GP clinics. Medical professionals in Singapore are highly qualified and speak English.
A polyclinic or GP clinic should be your first point of contact if you fall ill as they provide holistic and personalised care, and if needed, they can refer you onwards for further examinations. If, however, you need to go directly to a public or private hospital, check the speciality of the hospital as they all differ.
Because non-permanent residents don’t contribute to any of the Singaporean health plans, using any of the health facilities in Singapore will have a cost and sometimes a hefty one, in both the public and private sectors. However, by using the establishments listed in the health network of your international insurance, you can significantly reduce your costs.
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