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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. Medical costs in the Lion City, however, are projected to increase at an astronomical rate. According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2020 Global Medical Trends Survey Report, medical inflation in Singapore is projected to rise by 9.3% in 2020, far ahead of the core inflation figure projected at 1.9% by the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Having the right Singapore expat medical insurance policy is therefore essential in offsetting skyrocketing medical fees.

Those on the hunt for local or international health 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 perfect Singapore expat medical insurance plan can be even more difficult for new arrivals who may not be as familiar with the city-state’s health insurance and healthcare landscape. To help, Pacific Prime Singapore provides some key insights and tips on finding the most ideal Singapore health plan.

Individual health insurance blog

First thing’s first: Know your Singapore expat medical insurance options

Before identifying and narrowing down your list of preferred health insurance plans, it would be prudent to first be aware of what options are available to you. We’ve actually explained the main Singapore health insurance options 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

All 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 costly outpatient treatments (dialysis and chemotherapy).

As this medical insurance option only offers basic coverage, policyholders may choose to supplement it with Private Integrated Shield plans. Please bear in mind here, however, that only expats with permanent resident status are eligible for Medishield Life coverage. Those without permanent resident status are highly advised to arrange their own private medical coverage.

Local Singapore medical insurance

Private local 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 though, so it pays to read the small print before buying a plan.

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.

International medical insurance

Perhaps not surprisingly, international medical insurance is the most popular option for globally mobile expats and frequent travellers. 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

Looking for the most ideal Singapore expat medical insurance plan means finding the 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 a number of drawbacks – some of which may not be immediately apparent. Make sure you know how to compare expat health insurance in Singapore.

Some common issues to watch out for include:

  • 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 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 most 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 in your hunt for a suitable expat health insurance plan. Check out our dedicated compare 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’re also constantly releasing guides and reports. For an in-depth overview on Singapore’s health insurance landscape, check out our 2019-2020 State of Health Insurance Report. 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 LifeContact us today!

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Content Strategist at Pacific Prime Singapore
Jessica Lindeman is a Content Strategist at Pacific Prime. She comes to work every day living and breathing the motto of "simplifying insurance", and injects her unbridled enthusiasm for health and insurance related topics into every article and piece of content she creates for Pacific Prime.

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.