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Singapore medical insurance for expats: Finding your ideal plan

Singapore’s healthcare system consistently ranks among the top countries in the world, and the medical costs for 2022 are projected to increase at an astronomical rate. According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2023 Global Medical Trends Survey Report, medical inflation in the Lion City is projected to rise by 9% in 2022 from 8% in 2021. Therefore, having the right expat medical insurance in Singapore is essential in offsetting skyrocketing medical fees.

Those on the hunt for local or international medical insurance will likely know how difficult it can be to find an ideal plan that takes into account your specific healthcare needs and budget. Identifying the best health insurance in Singapore can be even more challenging for new arrivals because they may not be familiar with the city-state’s health insurance and healthcare landscape. To help, Pacific Prime provides some key insights and tips on finding the best health insurance in Singapore.

Individual health insurance blog

Expat insurance options in Singapore

Before identifying and narrowing down your list of the best health insurance plans in Singapore, it would be prudent to be aware of what options are available to you. We’ve explained different health insurance options in the Lion City in great detail in our Local vs. International Health Insurance in Singapore guide, but here’s a quick overview of the main types of health plans available:

Medishield Life

Singaporean citizens and permanent residents are automatically enrolled in Medishield Life, a basic health insurance scheme designed to offset large hospital bills and a select number of expensive outpatient treatments (dialysis and chemotherapy).

Medisheild Life offers limited coverage and policyholders may supplement it with Private Integrated Shield Plans. Please bear in mind that only expats with permanent resident status are eligible for Medishield Life coverage, those without permanent resident status are highly advised to secure private expat insurance.

Local Singapore medical insurance

Private local health insurance plans are designed to cover the policyholder in one country only, although more comprehensive options may offer minimum coverage for medical emergencies that arise during trips abroad (not exceeding 90 days). Every plan is different, so pay attention to the small print before buying.

As local plans are cheaper than their international counterparts, they’re typically recommended for people on a relatively tight budget, as well as those who rarely leave the country. Expats, on the other hand, tend to move countries and/or travel often, so a local plan may not offer the best protection. So, be specific in your search and look for the best medical insurance for expats.

International medical insurance

Perhaps not surprisingly, international medical insurance is the most popular option for globally mobile expats and frequent travelers. The reason is simple: they cover policyholders worldwide and tend to come with a wide range of coveted perks that make them far superior to local plans, such as:

  • Wider range of benefits in your country of residence
  • Higher coverage limits
  • Lifetime renewable guaranteed
  • More options for pre-existing condition coverage
  • No restrictions on healthcare providers
  • Plan portability

Don’t compare expat health insurance based on price alone

The ideal medical insurance plan for expats is one with a perfect balance between cost and benefits. While it’s understandably tempting to purchase the cheapest plan available, it’s likely not conducive to the best overall benefits. For instance, many people opt for local health insurance because of its low price tag, but it’s important to bear in mind that these plans come with several drawbacks – some of which may not be immediately apparent.

Here are some common issues to watch out for:

  • Not lifetime renewable
  • Erratic premium increases
  • Restrictive provider networks
  • Low limits
  • High co-pays
  • A long list of exclusions
  • No international medical evacuation
  • Limited or no cover for pre-existing/chronic conditions

Medishield Life vs. local plans vs. international health insurance

Be sure to familiarize yourself with all your Singapore medical insurance options – including the costs involved and the coverage received, before you select a plan. Here, we summarize the key differences side-by-side:

Plan type International health insurance Local health insurance Medishield Life
Annual Limit Varies (usually higher than its local counterparts) Varies (usually lower than its international counterparts) SGD 100,000
Area of cover Worldwide (usually excluding the US) Singapore only (sometimes with short term overseas cover for medical emergencies) Singapore only
Inpatient cover Yes Yes Yes
Outpatient cover Depends if you opt for an inpatient + outpatient plan Depends if you opt for an inpatient + outpatient plan Select costly outpatient treatments
Renewability Lifetime Upon mutual agreement (up to a certain age) Lifetime
Pre-existing condition coverage Possible (in most cases, you will need to pay an additional premium) No Yes
International medical evacuation Yes No No

It’s worth noting here that the above table is intended for generalized comparison only. For a free, tailored comparison of the ideal Singapore medical insurance plans, visit our compare health insurance page or get in touch with our team of advisors today.

Secure expat health insurance in Singapore through Pacific Prime

As a health insurance broker with over two decades of experience, Pacific Prime Singapore is well-placed to help you hunt for a suitable expat health insurance plan. First, check out our dedicated health insurance page for a plan comparison and free quote. Alternatively, our expert and friendly advisors are readily available to give you a personalized and unbiased insurance consultation.

Staying true to our motto of “simplifying insurance,” we constantly release guides and reports. For an in-depth overview of Singapore’s health insurance landscape, check out our The Cost of International Health Insurance report 2021-2022. Likewise, we stay on top of the latest updates from the government and Ministry of Health, recently looking at the new proposed changes to MediShield Life. Contact us today!

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Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime Singapore
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.
Serena Fung