Dermatological care and your private health insurance in Singapore
Singapore’s sunny climate is a source of bliss for many expats, but the perpetual heat and humidity can cause and/or aggravate skin conditions. If you suffer from skin woes like acne, hives, rashes, or eczema, you’re not alone – with the right dermatological care, you can better manage and take care of your skin. Dermatological care in the Lion City, however, can cost a fair bit, especially if you need frequent consultations, medications, and creams. Ensuring your private health insurance in Singapore covers such care is, therefore, paramount.
In this Pacific Prime Singapore blog post, we discuss the most common skin conditions in the Lion City, public vs private dermatological treatment, and what to consider when it comes to private health insurance coverage.
Rising demand for dermatological care in Singapore
If you’re in need of dermatological care in Singapore, you’re not alone. Whether it’s for eczema, psoriasis, or acne, demand for help with skin conditions is on the rise in the city-state. According to Channel News Asia, the National Skin Centre (NSC) reported 304,000 dermatological outpatient clinic attendances in 2016, a relatively large increase from 263,000 in 2008.
The reasons why dermatological treatment is increasing in demand are manifold. In the aforementioned article, Dr. Lynn Chiam, a dermatologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says increased awareness of skin conditions and treatments available is the main reason behind the hike in demand. Another main reason is that more Singaporeans are traveling frequently; this results in exposure to different climate conditions, which can in turn aggravate skin problems.
Common skin problems in Singapore
Here, we take a brief look at three of the most common skin conditions in Singapore, and provide tips on how you can better manage such ailments:
An ailment that affects approximately 1 in 10 people, the term eczema describes a group of conditions that causes the skin to be red, itchy, and inflamed. Eczema is one of the most common causes of dry and sensitive skin.
Singapore’s hot and humid climate can lead to excessive sweating, which can irritate and exacerbate the condition even more. Spending time in chlorinated pools and using sun creams containing harmful chemicals can also cause the condition to flare up.
This condition is also commonly aggravated by allergies, the most common causes of allergic reactions in Singapore being dustmites, shellfish, peanuts, and Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOCS; a prebiotic found in milk formulas).
How to better manage eczema: Those with eczema will have particularly sensitive skin, so it’s important to take a shower soon after excessive sweating. Also ensure that you frequently moisturize your skin with dermatologically approved moisturizers, as people with eczema are prone to having dry and flaky skin. Visit your doctor if simple measures like these aren’t doing the trick.
Also commonly referred to as sweat rash or prickly heat, this condition occurs when sweat ducts are blocked, and affects roughly 30% of people living in hot and humid countries. Those with this condition tend to experience itchy rashes, blisters, or tiny bumps on their skin. Non-breathable and synthetic clothes, as well as excessive sweating, can further aggravate the condition.
How to better manage heat rash: The most effective way of preventing heat rash is to keep your skin cool by wearing loose cotton clothing and taking cool baths/showers. To calm and soothe itchy or prickly rash, apply something cold (e.g. an ice pack) to the affected area for no more than 20 minutes, and try to avoid perfumed shower gels, as they will likely further aggravate the condition.
According to Men’s Health, 9.6 percent of all skin ailments treated at NSC in 2017 involved acne. Excessive sweating is common in hot and humid climates, which can easily trap dust and grime within the skin’s pores, causing them to clog up. Searing hot temperatures can also cause the skin to create excess sebum, making the skin more oily and clogging the pores even more. This creates the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and cause an acne flare-up.
How to better manage acne: Cleanse the skin after excessive sweating, and use anti-bacterial wash to get rid of bacteria and excess sebum on the skin. Products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can help clear the skin. If you’re experiencing more severe types of acne (e.g. cysts), it’s best to see a dermatologist who will be able to prescribe medications like antibiotics to help kill the bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Public vs private treatment for skin conditions in Singapore
As we discuss in our Private vs Public Healthcare in Singapore guide, one of the main differences between public and private care for most medical specialties is time and convenience vs. costs.
Private dermatological treatment
As one might expect, it’s usually much quicker to see a private sector dermatologist – many clinics will be happy to give you an appointment slot within one or two days of calling them. This is often the preferred option for those wanting immediate dermatological attention for skin flare-ups.
Private dermatologists typically charge SGD 120 to 140 for the initial consultation, while medications will usually add SGD 150 to 300 to the overall bill. This is a hefty sum to pay, especially if you require frequent care – hence we highly recommend that individuals and families take time to find the right private health in Singapore.
Public dermatological treatment
On the other hand, if you decide to take the public route and visit the NSC, you will usually have to wait around four to six weeks for an appointment, as walk-ins are not accepted. This route is a lot more affordable. Singaporean Citizens, for example, only need to pay a subsidized rate of SGD 36 for their initial consultation at the NSC.
It’s important to note here that all foreigners are not qualified for subsidized rates at the NSC. You can, however, visit an NSC dermatologist via the unsubsidized private route, which gives you a quicker appointment date, and the ability to choose the same dermatologist.
Can private health insurance in Singapore cover dermatological care?
This will depend on the type of private health insurance plan you have. If your plan covers outpatient treatment, meaning care that does not require an overnight hospital stay, then it will cover the costs of GP or Family Doctor visits to have your skin irritation initially examined, but referrals to specialist dermatologists will be a separate benefit.
If you already have a skin condition prior to signing up for private health insurance in Singapore, you’ll likely find coverage for your condition falling into a pre-existing condition exclusion. International health insurance providers are typically more lenient towards applicants with pre-existing conditions; some will allow the option of covering such conditions as long as you agree to a waiting period, or pay an extra premium.
Another point worth mentioning here is whether your condition needs ongoing care. Health insurance plans only cover care that is “medically necessary”, so dermatological treatments that are cosmetic in nature (e.g. Botox, chemical peels) will in virtually all cases be excluded from their individual or group health plan. Every policy will vary as it pertains to their benefits and limits, so it’s imperative that you read the fine print before purchasing private health insurance in Singapore.
Navigating the world of health insurance in Singapore
With the advent of the internet, finding insurance is easy in Singapore. Comparing and selecting the best health insurance options for you and your family’s needs, however, can be a whole other ball game. Check out Pacific Prime Singapore’s guide on Health Insurance in Singapore to learn about the main differences between Medishield Life, local plans, and international health insurance plans, or get in touch with our advisors today for free, impartial advice.
When she's not typing away on her keyboard, she's reading poetry, fueling her insatiable wanderlust, getting her coffee fix, and perpetually browsing animal Instagram accounts.