If you’re seriously considering moving to Singapore, that’s shiok! (fantastic!) Chances are you’ll love this living on this dynamic, beautiful, economic hub of an island.

But before you become one of the 1.67 million expats living in Singapore, you should make sure you know what kind of healthcare you’ll have once you arrive.

And if you want to join the 3.8 million people in Singapore who have private health insurance, we recommend Cigna.

The company helps more than 95 million customers all over the world, and they have the know-how to get you the right cover too.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Singaporean healthcare: key stats

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    average life expectancy
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    doctors per 10,000 people
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    % of residents have private insurance

Overview of the healthcare system in Singapore

Singapore has a universal healthcare system, funded by the government and the public.

On top of this coverage, two-thirds of Singapore’s 5.7 million residents have chosen to take out a private healthcare policy, according to the latest research.

The system seems to work well. A 2018 study published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ranked Singapore’s healthcare the 22nd-best in the world – one place above the UK. 

The city-state – which is less than half the size of London – has achieved this ranking while spending just 2.1% of GDP on public healthcare, according to official statistics and Statista.

There are three parts of the country’s healthcare system, known as the three Ms: MediSave, MediShield Life, and MediFund.

MediFund is for citizens only, while MediSave and MediShield Life are open to permanent residents, or the spouse, child, or parent of a permanent resident.

This will apply to you if you’re married to a Singapore citizen or permanent resident, or if you plan to invest in the country. Check out our guide to Singapore visas for more details.

Now, let’s learn about the three Ms.

view of singapore

The Merlion is Singapore's national symbol – and it looks amazing

MediSave

This is a mandatory savings fund that employees pay between 8 and 10.5% of wages into, dependent on your age. It can be used to pay for most medical care, short of a medical disaster.

The government subsidises all treatments MediSave can be used for, from psychiatric treatment and certain day surgeries to radiotherapy, diabetes, and end-of-life care.

You can also decide how much you want the government to subsidise your care when it comes to which ward you stay in.

The better the ward, the less the government will subsidise your stay, making it more expensive for you.

If you decide on a C class ward (which has eight beds), the government will subsidise 65 to 80% of your stay, depending on your average monthly income.

If you choose a B2 ward (which has six beds), you’ll benefit from a 50 to 65% subsidy.

MediSave has withdrawal limits, but is designed for you to be able to pay for a B2 or C class ward in a public hospital.

If you stay in a higher level ward – A or B1 – you’ll still be subsidised as if you’re staying in a B2 or C ward, but you’ll enjoy air conditioning and fewer beds, with one in A and four in B1.

To be properly covered for any stay in an A or B1 ward, you’ll need private insurance.

You’ll usually pay any additional costs out of pocket – unless your situation is more serious, in which case you may be able to rely on MediShield Life.

MediShield Life

This opt-out public insurance programme helps to protect people in Singapore against the catastrophic financial effects of serious health incidents.

Excessive hospital bills and certain outpatient services – like dialysis and chemotherapy – are all covered under MediShield Life.

Premium payments will be taken from your MediSave account, and comfortingly, the Singaporean government has promised: “No-one will lose MediShield Life coverage due to inability to afford premiums.”

MediFund

This endowment fund is only for citizens.

It serves Singaporeans who can’t afford to pay their public medical bills.

If you’re ever in a position like this, talk to the authorities and work out a payment plan.

CareShield Life

This programme, which is due to launch near the end of 2020, will provide citizens and permanent residents with severe disabilities with government payouts each month.

When the initiative starts, recipients will get S$600 (£340) per month, and this amount will rise over time.

You can find out more information on the CareShield Life page, as the government updates its plans.

Private healthcare in Singapore

If you’ll be a permanent resident in Singapore – or immediately related to one – then your private policy will be combined with your MediSave and MediShield Life to form an Integrated Shield Plan.

This means that as well as paying into an account which you can withdraw from when you incur medical expenses, you’ll also have private insurance to fully ensure that you can afford particularly costly hospital bills and outpatient services.

If you’re not going to be a permanent resident, or the spouse, child, or parent of one, you’ll need to purchase an international private healthcare plan.

It’s worth mentioning that private policies also cover you if you wish to stay in A or B1 class wards – which have one and four beds respectively – instead of B2 and C class wards, which contain six and eight beds.

You can also get air conditioning in these more expensive wards, though the Singaporean government is eager to emphasise that “you get good quality medical treatment in all wards.”

Is there free healthcare in Singapore?

Not exactly.

The government doesn’t follow the usual universal healthcare formula of taxing its residents and using that money to provide all healthcare services.

Instead, Singaporean authorities subsidise medical services and oblige the public to pay a monthly amount into what amounts to a healthcare savings account, which they can then use to buy these discounted services.

The government also uses an endowment fund to cover its most vulnerable residents, through the MediFund programme.

Buddha Toothe Relic Temple in Singapore

Singapore is a cultural hub as well as a thriving business centre

Healthcare issues in Singapore

The downside of this public system is that expenses can still exceed the amount you’ve put in your MediSave account, even if you don’t choose to stay in a fancy ward – and then you just have to pay out of pocket.

This explains why 32.13% of Singaporean health expenditure comes from public out-of-pocket spending – more than twice as much as the UK’s 15.96%.

This is only likely to increase. Singapore has an aging population and a 1.1 birth rate, according to The World Bank – one of the lowest in the world. These twin phenomena are set to place an increasingly large financial strain on the health service.

With all of this in mind, it may be worth investing in a private plan, either on top of the public offering or instead of it.

If that sounds good to you, we recommend Cigna – and you can start building a customised plan now, with a free quote.

Is healthcare in Singapore affordable?

Healthcare isn’t free, but it is affordable in the strictest sense.

In 2018, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told the public: “We want all Singaporeans to have access to affordable, high-quality healthcare.

 “No one should be denied medical care because they cannot afford it. This is my commitment to you.”

And for most people in Singapore, medical costs will be covered handily by their MediSave fund, which costs – at most – 10.5% of their wages.

However, if disaster hits, this fund may become overstretched.

How much does it cost to see a doctor in Singapore?

A public consultation costs S$13.20 (£7.60) after the government subsidy is applied, according to Singaporean publication The Online Citizen.

This is cheaper than going to a private doctor, which costs S$29.90 (£17.20) – though there is a twist.

Before the subsidy is applied, seeing a public doctor costs S$48.10 (£27.60) – more than you’ll pay to go private.

This quirk won’t affect you, but it does raise plenty of questions about Singapore’s healthcare system.

Do you need private health insurance in Singapore?

If you’re not the spouse, child, or parent of a permanent resident – and if you’re not planning on becoming one yourself – then you need private health insurance.

You’ll be joining the majority. Two-thirds of people in Singapore have private health insurance, and for good reason.

Firstly, even if you can access the country’s public system, you don’t lose anything by going private – it’s incorporated into your public healthcare, as an Integrated Shield Plan.

Secondly, you’ll be covered for any catastrophic medical emergencies, and able to receive the best care possible, in the nicest surroundings possible.

If that level of peace of mind sounds good to you, we recommend Cigna. With more than 95 million customers all over the world, Cigna has the know-how to get you just the right cover.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.

Benefits of private medical cover in Singapore

  • Peace of mind
  • The best possible level of care
  • It’s relatively affordable
  • Having fewer unexpected out-of-pocket expenses means you’ll be able to budget your healthcare
  • If you’re not a permanent resident or immediately related to one, it’s 100% necessary

How much does health insurance cost in Singapore?

Public insurance

Public insurance payments in Singapore depend on your age and your salary, with those who are older and who earn more paying the most.

The average full-time salary is S$54,756 (£31,405), according to government statistics. For a 37-year-old, this would mean paying the 9% rate.

That would work out to an annual contribution of S$4,928 (£2,826) – or, to put it another way, S$411 (£235) per month.

SalaryUnder 3535 to under 4545 to under 5050+
Above $6,000 to $12,0004%4.5%5%5.25%
Above $12,000 to $18,0004% to 8%4.5% to 9%5% to 10%5.25% to 10.5%
Above $18,0008%9%10%10.5%
Maximum$5,760$6,480$7,200$7,560

Private insurance

If you can access public healthcare in Singapore, but you want to add an Integrated Shield Plan and stay in private hospitals, you can expect to pay an extra S$638 (£366) per year on top of your MediSave contributions.

On an average salary, this would mean paying S$5,570 (£3,195) per year, or S$464 (£266.25) per month.

If you’re unable to use Singapore’s public health system, private insurance will cost you around S$401 (£230) per month – or S$4,812 (£2,760) per year.

Of course, this figure depends on the level of cover you want. Including optional extras like dental care and outpatient services can drive your premiums up to £400 per month.

If you want to join the Singaporeans who’ve bought themselves peace of mind, you can sort out cover before you go.

We’ve partnered with Cigna for private medical insurance in Singapore. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for greater flexibility, Cigna has a plan to suit your needs. Start building that plan today.

Private insurance for a family

Private insurance for a family of four who aren’t covered by MediSave will cost around S$899 (£516) per month, or S$10,788 (£6,192) per year.

And that’s just the average. There are plenty of ways to shape your plan to suit you, either to save money or to include additional coverage that better reflects your needs.

Summary

The Lion City has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, with a thriving private sector that can easily bring you peace of mind.

If you’ve decided to join the 67% of Singaporeans who have private insurance, we recommend Cigna.

With more than 95 million customers all over the world, Cigna has the know-how to get you just the right cover.

Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.