Relocating to a new country is a huge step for everyone as it turns your life around 360 degrees. New culture, new language, new work environment, people and new rules and regulations, you will have a lot to understand once you move to a new place. But the most important of all is to figure out how the healthcare system works. Singapore, one of the most popular destinations for expats, boasts of one of the best healthcare systems in the world. If you are moving to the Lion City, it’s important for you as an expat to understand how the country’s healthcare system works.
Singapore’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world. While both the private and public sectors boast of high-quality medical care, healthcare in Singapore can be quite expensive and complex for expats. Unless you are a citizen or a permanent resident, you are not entitled to certain medical benefits.
Hence, it is of utmost importance that you have sufficient health coverage in Singapore. Below are the highlights of Singapore’s healthcare system that is treated as a benchmark all around the globe. While most employers provide some kind of health insurance benefits to their employees, you must check the same with your employers. Also, make sure that the coverage extends to your family members who have moved to Singapore with you.
If your employer doesn’t provide you with an insurance coverage or do not feel that the coverage provided by your employers is sufficient, you should consider getting your own health insurance policy. Here are a few options you could explore
Under Singapore’s social insurance scheme – the Central Provident Fund (CPF) – all Singaporean citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents (SPR) must be enrolled. Expats without permanent resident status are not required to sign up for CPF coverage.
The health component of social insurance in Singapore is commonly referred to as the “3M” system, because of its three pillars: Medisave, MediShield, and Medifund.
The government of Singapore is highly generous and provides up to 80% subsidies on the bills of various clinics and hospitals. Apart from The Community Health Assist Scheme, which is meant for lower and middle-income group families, the following policies form an essential part of the country’s healthcare system.
This policy is the government’s effort towards the compulsory contribution of a part of the employee’s income to a designated account along with a similar donation from the employer. Contributions need to be made by individuals earning an income of $750 according to the following rates that are applicable based on a person’s age:
- 35 and below – 8%
- 35 to 45 – 9%
- 45 to 50 – 10%
- Above 50 – 10.5%
For individuals having an income of less than $750, different rates apply. The amount saved via Medisave can be used by the policyholder or for his immediate family. In order to claim the savings, the policyholder should be hospitalised for a period of at least 8 hours. Different limits of withdrawal apply to different hospitals and treatments.
MediShield Life offers cover for chronic illnesses that do not form a part of Medisave. The permanent residents of Singapore automatically get registered for this policy that is managed by the Central Provident Fund Board. Transitional subsidies are offered to them for facilitating a rapid shift to this policy. Government help through Additional Premium Support is provided to individuals who are unable to afford the premiums even after payment through Medisave.
This plan lays emphasis on elders who are in need of constant support and financial help due to old age. ElderShield Supplements further to provide a boost to such policyholders, who are automatically covered under Medisave once they attain the age of 40.
ElderShield is designed to insure against the financial risks of severe disability. Premiums for Shield plans may be paid from your Medisave account, and it’s possible to opt out from MediShield. Most Singaporeans choose to sign up for an enhanced cover through Integrated Shield plans or ElderShield supplements. Though these plans are subject to higher premiums, they provide cover for treatment in private or government hospitals whose classification is B1 and over.
Medifund is a tax-funded programme, which is designed to help the neediest Singaporean citizens or SPRs with their healthcare bills. This fund has been specifically set up for assisting individuals in paying their medical expenses incurred in hospitals approved under the scheme, which could not be covered by any other policy. Medical Social Workers apply for such patients on their behalf to the Medifund Committee, which reviews the merits of each case. Medifund Silver and Medifund Junior have been established for offering specialized support to specific age groups.
Integrated Shield Plans
While the above plans are a part of public insurance plans, Integrated Shield Plans are private policies that aim at providing better coverage to the policyholders. According to the Ministry of Health, Singapore, these mainly cater to those belonging to Class A/B1. As the name suggests, such policies are integrated with MediShield Life to not only provide cover for a lifetime in the future, but also for pre-existing conditions such as cancer, heart, liver or respiratory diseases, etc.
Individuals who are not residents of the country but are in Singapore on a work visa are also eligible for insurance coverage. They, however, do not get the multitude of benefits that every permanent resident and citizen of Singapore is entitled to. Expats are given coverage for emergency services only. Independent policy providers do have an assortment of healthcare services which need to be reviewed and evaluated before making a choice. Most of them include:
- In-patient services
- Medical evacuation
- Day patient services
- Home-based services
- Regenerative services
Given the success of the system, it is obvious that the government cracks down heavily on defaulters. Those who are caught evading health insurance premium can be made to pay a fine of up to 17% of the premiums due, including any interest that might have been earned on the fund.
Without adequate cover, medical treatment in Singapore can be very expensive, even if you are going to a public sector hospital. If you are not a resident of Singapore, you should be ready to invest in a private scheme that will offer coverage to you and your family.