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6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Taking Out Health Insurance in Singapore

Since its founding, Singapore has been one of the top destinations for expats, either for work or tourism. With flourishing banking and tech sectors, a wealth of international schools, high-quality healthcare, and arguably some of the best food in the world, the city-state has a lot to offer expats and their families.

Despite its many attractive sides, there are some things that could cast a pall over your time in the Lion City. One of those is needing to visit the doctor. The concern here is certainly not with the quality of care - after all, Singapore was ranked by Bloomberg as having the second most efficient healthcare in 2016, it's with the cost. For example, the cost of a maternity package (as of February 2017) at the Thompson Medical Center is listed as just shy of SGD 4,000 (GBP 2,320) for a normal birth with a one night stay in a one bedroom ward. This does not include any specialist fees or some medication so the cost could easily be double that if there are any complications.  

This means it would be beneficial to secure health insurance which can help offset or completely cover the cost of medical care in Singapore. The question is how can you find the best value plan before you move to the city? Here Pacific Prime Singapore, a specialist health insurance broker established to help expats find health insurance, discusses six questions you should ask if you are moving to Singapore and will be looking to secure health insurance.

1. What health Issues are there 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.

2. Do I actually need insurance for Singapore?

This can be a tough question to answer, especially when moving to a city where healthcare and insurance functions a little differently from many western countries. As is noted in another article on this topic on the MoveHub blog, there is universal health insurance in Singapore which sees the vast majority of the cost of healthcare for Singaporeans covered.

If you are Singaporean you will not be paying a lot for most types of healthcare. This means that you might not necessarily need health insurance in the long-term. It might be a good idea to secure insurance for a shorter term to ensure any health concerns are completely covered.

If you are an expat moving to Singapore however, as in you are not a Singaporean citizen or a permanent resident, then you will unfortunately not have access to the universal healthcare system. This means that any medical care you seek will not be subsidised by the government; you will be paying full price for any care.  

Due to the cost of care, it would, therefore, be advisable for expats moving to Singapore to secure at least some form of health insurance coverage.

3. What are my options of coverage?

Expats already living in Singapore tend to consider securing one of the three following types of insurance:

  • Travel insurance - Designed to provide people travelling out of their home countries with emergency coverage, these plans are short term in nature. Some expats consider securing this type of insurance to provide them with cover while they move and settle in Singapore and look for more long-term health insurance coverage.
  • Local health insurance - Plans offered by private insurers based in Singapore. These plans usually will only cover health care within Singapore and might not have high enough coverage limits to truly make them worth securing if you plan on seeking care at the most costly private hospitals in the city.  
  • International insurance - Plans offered by private insurers, either based in Singapore or elsewhere, that provide health coverage anywhere in the world. Due to their international nature, these plans tend to offer high coverage limits which afford the holder the ability to receive care at pretty much any private hospital in the world, even in your home country.

4. Who will I need to cover?

This is an important question to ask yourself, especially if you are moving to Singapore with your family. Historically, many companies that hire expats will offer them comprehensive health insurance plans for the employee and their dependants. This is becoming increasingly rare.

Expats who relocate overseas will usually still receive health insurance through their company, but this plan will not be extended to dependants. This means that you will need to secure separate coverage for your family. It is therefore important to discuss with your HR team how your health insurance will work before leaving your home country, as you will then be able to figure out exactly who you need to cover.

The same can be said for your spouse. If they too will be working, it would be beneficial to see who their plan will cover.

5. What will I need to cover?

Almost all health insurance plans sold in Singapore will not cover certain things like pre-existing conditions, while other plans will have waiting times attached to certain coverage elements like maternity or dental.

Due to this, it is important to ask yourself what you will need to be covered before moving to Singapore. If you have a pre-existing condition there are plans that you can secure that will cover it, but there might be a loading (extra premium) or time that must pass before they will be covered.

The same can be said if you are planning on having a baby in the near future. Health insurance plans in Singapore that also have medical coverage will have a waiting period of around 10 months or more before you can submit claims related to maternity.  

Knowing this ahead of time can help you better select plans that meet your coverage needs.

6. What level of coverage will I need?

The majority of expats in Singapore secure plans with one of the three following levels of coverage:

  • Inpatient only - These plans will only cover health care where you have been admitted to the hospital.
  • Inpatient + outpatient - These plans will cover the above and will also cover outpatient and clinic visits.
  • Full coverage - These plans will cover both of the above along with extra elements such as maternity or dental.

7. How do I find a valuable health insurance plan?

There are a wide variety of insurers and plans to select from in Singapore. So, how can you find a plan that not only provides the coverage you need, but is also a perceived value? Well, you have a few options available to you.

First, you can go with the insurers directly. If you know approximately what type of plans you want, what you need to cover, etc. then going to the various insurers in the city could be a viable option. The major downside here is that you will be reviewing a large number of plans, which can take time. Not to mention the fact that actually knowing whether a plan is 'good' or not can be a tough thing. This is especially true when looking at additional services offered, how fast an insurer will pay claims, whether hospitals in Singapore will accept the coverage, etc.

The second option is to work with an impartial broker like Pacific Prime Singapore. Brokers are often beholden to no individual insurer which means they will strive to work with you to determine your coverage needs and recommend plans that will work for you.

Beyond that, they know the market inside and out and can recommend insurers who not only offer a competitive premium but also offer quality service when you actually need to use the plan. After all, price is not the only thing that contributes to value.

Finally, it would be advisable that if you are moving to Singapore and are considering an international health insurance plan, it would be beneficial to buy the plan in Singapore, or from a Singapore-based broker. Yes, the coverage will be international, but plans sold in Singapore do often have the added benefit of being known by the hospitals in the city, not to mention the fact that the plans will have been created so that they meet any potential laws or requirements around coverage the government might have in place.

If you are moving to Singapore, talk with an advisor at Pacific Prime Singapore about your health insurance options today.