Healthcare in Singapore
Singapore exemplifies modernity and progress with its gleaming skyscrapers, award-winning Changi Airport, and its much-admired public transport system and cleanliness. Expats who move to Singapore find themselves experiencing a new culture and a different way of life from what they're accustomed to. Are you and your family relocating to Singapore on assignment? Aside from housing, schooling, and your new job, a little due diligence about healthcare costs for Singapore expats and international health insurance can immensely help in important decision-making. Get to know the healthcare system of Singapore to make your move pain-free.
Healthcare in Singapore at a Glance
Frequently mentioned by former and current expats in Singapore is the high quality of life they enjoy in the city. The Singapore government takes pride in its health care system that has won accolades all over the world. A report from 2000 released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on the overall health system performances of 191 countries saw the country in sixth place, while the United Kingdom ranked 18th and the US was in 37th place. The latest analysis from Bloomberg in September 2018 shows Singapore in second place after Hong Kong, with an average life expectancy of 82.7 years.
Boasting state-of-the-art facilities, the country currently has 5,607 public and private medical care establishments as of September 2018 overseen by the Singapore Ministry of Health (MOH) according to the Singapore Department of Statistics, comprising more than 18 hospitals, over 3,000 Western clinics, 790 non-Western clinics and an additional 1,660 offering dental and other health services. Many of its premier institutions take the lead in medical research and maintain partnerships with renowned medical centers all over the world. This has resulted in an increasing number of international visitors seeking medical services at many of Singapore's internationally-accredited hospitals.
The current network of healthcare services includes nine private hospitals which include Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Gleneagles Hospital, Farrer Park Hospital, Raffles Hospital, and Camden Medical Centre. There are also eight public hospitals, among them Singapore General Hospital, Changi General Hospital, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. The Institute of Mental Health provides psychiatric care and there are also nine specialty centers for cancer, skin, neuroscience, eyes, cardiac health, and dental care.
At the frontline of primary health care are the over 2,000 private and 200 public polyclinics as of 2017 with general practitioners providing outpatient care. These polyclinics provide at least 80 percent of Singapore residents' primary medical care. If your Singapore relocation package includes local health insurance plans from your employer, visits to private clinics for minor ailments may be covered by this. Make sure to ask your company prior to your move about any such coverage for you and your dependents.
Singapore maintains a universal health care system through compulsory savings and government subsidies. For the most part, public healthcare benefits in Singapore extend only to its citizens and permanent residents.
This is done through the country's mandatory social security scheme, the Central Provident Fund (CPF), which includes a component called Medisave. Medisave is essentially a savings scheme which puts aside a certain amount from a person's income into a special account designed for hospitalization, surgery, and outpatient treatments for diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes or stroke. An expat who has acquired permanent resident status can start making monthly contributions to their CPF, and in turn, start maintaining their own Medisave account. The Ministry of Health features a list of other available public health insurance schemes such as MediShield Life coverage, MediFund and more, as well as eligibility requirements and benefits including allowances and hospital stays at http://www.moh.gov.sg.
Health Insurance is Absolutely Essential
Now that you have a basic idea of how the Singapore public healthcare system works, it's necessary to determine how much local and international health insurance coverage you want for yourself and your family. Another important factor is to find out whether your employer will provide you and your dependents at least some basic medical coverage for the duration of your stay in Singapore. This way, you can figure out whether you require any additions to your plan such as vision, dental coverage, and more.
If you have any private health insurance for yourself or your entire family in your home country, do a quick check with them to see if they have international coverage and how much is the limit for such. Most international insurance companies allow some flexibility when it comes to extending their members' coverage in other territories. This is especially important if you require some traveling for work, or if you and your dependents intend to make regular visits home, have a baby, require surgery or long-term hospitalization.
However, be prepared for any increased fees on your monthly premiums due to the expanded coverage. Many Singapore-based insurance schemes that cater to expats also command higher premiums than what locals usually pay. International healthcare companies usually settle their members' medical bills directly with the hospital, unlike local companies who choose to reimburse the amount after treatment or hospitalization.
On the other hand, it's worth checking Singapore-based insurance companies who offer international health plans. Health insurance from local companies may offer limited scope compared to international coverage when it comes to geographical territory, payouts and co-payments, and add-ons such as pregnancy, newborn visits, vision, and dental. Take time to screen and compare everything carefully. One important reminder about local health insurance is that this is all dependent on your status in Singapore. If you quit, lose your job and your Employment Pass gets canceled, you need to terminate your insurance plan.
Availing of Private Healthcare
A majority of the 1.2 million foreigners currently working and living in Singapore usually go to private hospitals for treatment. As of 2017, there are a total of 1,500 beds available in Singapore's private hospitals and over 4,000 doctors working in private healthcare.
Healthcare provided by the private sector is understandably more expensive but also offers more benefits than public facilities. These include medical staff who speak English and other languages, shorter waiting times and top-notch facilities that offer more than just basic comforts. Some offer world-class rooms and suites more similar to luxurious hotels than medical centers which can set you back as high as SGD 8,000 to SGD 10,000 per night. If privacy isn't much of an issue especially for an overnight stay, there are also one- or two-bed wards available that can cost around SGD 3,000. It goes without saying that treatment at private hospitals will cost you more so it's imperative that your healthcare plan can cover the expense.
Note that international prescriptions are not accepted in Singapore. Consult with a local doctor in order to get a valid prescription of your required medications. Just to be on the safe side, make sure to have an adequate supply of your medications for the first few months of your arrival in Singapore.
Once you have a local prescription, it's much easier to fill it at many of Singapore's pharmacies, shopping centers, and even supermarkets, where over-the-counter medications are also available. Singapore doctors can also provide you with a more affordable generic equivalent of imported medicines.
Learn more about Getting Around in Singapore.