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Do I Need Health Insurance in Singapore?

Singapore’s healthcare system was ranked 6th in the world by the World Health Organisation in 2000. What’s more surprising than the widespread and quality nature of the care provided is the low spend on healthcare as a proportion of GDP - just 3.9 per cent or less than half that of the UK.

Health Issues in Singapore

Major problems among expats are respiratory diseases - exacerbated by Singapore’s humid climate - including avian flu.

Around 6,800 residents of Singapore were suspected to have contracted H1N1 influenza in 2010.

Extra vigilance when it comes to hygiene, especially around the preparation of poultry, is recommended.

Public Healthcare in Singapore

Around 70-80% of Singaporeans exclusively use the public healthcare system via three schemes: Medisave, Medishield and Medifund.

Medisave

This scheme is similar in nature to UK National Insurance - Singaporeans contribute to a health insurance fund tax-free from which they can withdraw funds for covered medical treatments. The difference is that the account earns interest and is transferable on death.

Medisave forms part of a larger mandatory government pension scheme and is part funded by the government and employers.

Medishield

Medishield is a top-up form of national insurance to cover prolonged and major illnesses. It requires co-payment from both the fund and the individual - much like the US model.

Medifund

Medifund is a safety net for low income individuals. A means tested benefit for those who would otherwise be unable to pay for health care.

Of the 43 hospitals in Singapore 29 are state runs while 14 are independent. Patients at state run hospitals have the option to purchase additional extras like private rooms or upgraded treatments.

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Private Health Insurance in Singapore

While permanent residents are entitled to join the public health care schemes listed above most expats take out private health insurance to bridge the gap between what is and isn’t covered by Medisave.

The private health care system in Singapore is excellent and attracts a great deal of medical tourism from Western expats in Asia as well as wealthy Chinese patients. Prices have risen commensurately high though - to around three times the equivalent in nearby Kuala Lumpur.

Choosing a private healthcare insurance provider requires a good deal of research since schemes from different providers often can’t be compared directly - they differ in terms of treatments covered, caps on claims and eligibility.

Major companies providing insurance to Singapore expats include:

  • InterGlobal
  • AxaPPP
  • Aviva International Solutions
  • Medicare
  • Bupa International
  • International Medical Group