Health insurance for expats in Singapore: A guide to costs involved and choosing a plan
In many countries, expats who are legally working and contributing to taxes receive the same level of healthcare subsidies as local residents. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for expats in Singapore and, coupled with the city-state’s exorbitant cost of healthcare, securing a health insurance plan is more important than ever.
While it may be tempting to opt for the cheapest plan you can lay your hands on, this isn’t a smart move in the long run, as not all health insurance plans are created equally. In this Pacific Prime Singapore article, we’ll go through the different options you’ll have, the costs involved, as well as tips to help you compare plans.
Health insurance options and costs for expats in Singapore
As a health insurance broker, one of the first questions clients ask us is: “How much does expat health insurance cost in Singapore?” To answer this, we’ll first need to explain your health insurance options in the Lion City, due to the fact that premiums can differ significantly depending on what option you go for.
Local insurance plan (valid in Singapore only)
If you opt for a Singapore insurer, chances are you’ll be looking at a local health insurance plan. As the name suggests, these plans are typically valid only in the city-state, and any coverage abroad will be limited to emergencies only.
Note: Certain Singapore insurers also offer international health insurance plans (outlined below) that cater specifically towards expats. Therefore, if you’re engaging with local insurers, it’s important to clarify with them what plan you’re getting.
Local plans in Singapore are designed to be used alongside “MediShield Life”, the basic national health insurance plans that citizens and permanent residents receive, which is why they are commonly known as “Integrated Shield Plans”.
Even though you’re not eligible for MediShield Life as an expat, you may be able to purchase Integrated Shield Plans from local insurers. However, note that you may have to pay higher premiums.
Cost of an Integrated Shield Plan from AIA
One example of a Singapore insurer is AIA. Their HealthShield Gold Max is an Integrated Shield Plan that costs the following for a 25-year-old expat (who is not a dependent of a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident):
- SGD $405 per year for basic coverage
You can use the price quotation tool to see how the premium changes depending on your age, if you’re a dependent of a Singaporean citizen or permanent resident, or if you choose to expand your coverage.
International health insurance plan (valid in Singapore and worldwide)
If you opt for a non-Singapore insurer, then you’ll most likely be looking at international health insurance plans. These plans tend to provide coverage in several regions, although many will exclude the USA or charge extra for it, as healthcare costs in the country are extremely high.
These plans are more popular with expats in Singapore, as they’re compatible with the expat way of life. If you travel a lot or if you plan on relocating, you don’t need to worry about health insurance matters, as your plan will still be valid.
That being said, these plans cost more than their local counterparts. Nevertheless, as we’ll explore later on in this article, there are many reasons why an international plan may be a superior choice for you.
Cost of international health insurance plans
If you’re a 25-year-old expat looking for an international plan, here are some of your options, compiled using Pacific Prime’s price quotation tool. As you can see, the plans don’t offer the same thing, so it’s best to assess your needs and understand the terms before choosing a plan.
|Insurer||Coverage||Premium per year (SGD $)|
|Cigna||Worldwide excluding the USA, SGD $13,000 annual deductible||1,764|
|Axa||Asia, SGD $2,000 annual deductible, Co-payment of 20%||1,980|
|Bupa||Worldwide excluding the USA, SGD $4,160 annual deductible||2,064|
Note: Make sure to set the premium cost as SGD $ instead of USD $ when using the price quotation tool.
Tips for comparing expat health insurance plans
Given that premium cost isn’t the be-all and end-all, which option provides the best health insurance for expats in Singapore? Furthermore, how and why do plans differ even with the same insurer? Here are some factors to keep in mind when comparing and evaluating health insurance plans:
As mentioned, local health insurance plans are cheaper, but they only cover you in Singapore, while international health insurance plans allow you to retain coverage if you travel or relocate. Therefore, even if it’s more expensive, it is worth considering. The more regions it covers, the higher the premiums.
Extent of coverage
Whether it’s a local or international health insurance plan, those on the lower end of the price spectrum typically provide basic coverage, which is inpatient only. In other words, this is coverage for treatments received if you were admitted overnight to the hospital. Premium costs will increase if you want coverage for:
- Outpatient coverage (treatment received if you were not admitted overnight to the hospital such as GP visits)
- Pre-existing conditions coverage (conditions you have before securing health insurance)
- Dental coverage
- Vision coverage
- Pregnancy and childbirth coverage
- Newborn coverage
- And more.
Terms to increase out-of-pocket payments as part of the coverage
Finally, as you may have figured out from the aforementioned table, plans with lower premium also tend to have a high deductible, high co-payment, etc. The following explains what these terms mean. Essentially, even though you don’t have to fork out a lot each month for health insurance, you may be required to pay more out of pocket for treatments.
Deductible: This is the amount you have to pay out of pocket before your health insurance plan kicks in and the insurer starts paying.
Co-payment: This is the amount you’ll have to pay for the cost of a covered treatment, following the payment of the deductible (if any). It’s usually charged as a percentage of the costs.
Limits/Exclusions: This is any condition, situation, or treatment that your health insurance plan will not cover.
Check out our glossary for the full list of insurance jargon.
Direct billing and claims process
It’s also worth forking out a bit more for an insurer with a large provider network and direct billing service. This will allow the hospital to bill your insurer directly, saving you the time and stress from making claims for reimbursement.
In addition to this, make sure that, if you do need to make a claim, then the process is fairly straightforward. The last thing you want is lots of paperwork, bureaucracy, as well as going back-and-forth between you and the insurer.
Insurer reputation, renewability, and long-term price stability
Going with a reputable insurer is also prudent, even if it is more expensive than other alternatives. This is because they’ll be able to provide better customer service, support, and have more stable price increases.
Similarly, going with a plan and insurer that has a “lifetime renewability” is better as it provides a more long-term insurance solution, so you don’t have to worry about switching insurers further down the line.
Looking to secure expat health insurance? Get in touch with Pacific Prime Singapore
If you’d like to learn more about expat health insurance, Pacific Prime Singapore is here to help. We leverage our partnership with top insurers in the region, offering you unbiased advice about the best plan to suit your needs and budgets. Not only that, but we also offer a vast array of services at no extra cost versus going direct to the insurer:
- Health insurance plan comparison
- Administration assistance
- Insurer liaison
- Claims and renewal negotiation
- Claims support
- And so much more.
Staying true to our motto of “simplifying insurance”, we publish useful insurance-related resources. Check out our 2019-2020 State of Health Insurance Report to get a better idea about the health insurance landscape in Singapore. If you want to understand health insurance premiums, you can also look at our 2019 Cost of Health Insurance Report.
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