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Singaporeans are living longer but struggle with skyrocketing medical costs

Singaporeans are living longer, but are struggling with hiking medical costs and health insurance inflation. The UN estimates that by 2035, 26% of Singaporeans will be over the age of 65 – more than double the 2015 figure of 11.7%. This finding, plus the fact that the fertility rate in Singapore stands at just 1.16, illustrates the importance of chronic illness prevention among both the young and elderly population. In this Pacific Prime Singapore article, we take a deeper look at population aging, healthcare, and health insurance for the elderly in Singapore.

Individual health insurance blog

Population aging in Singapore

Singapore’s aging population is rising at a rapid pace, and as such, elderly healthcare support is one of the government’s main priorities, with several key initiatives already having been implemented to address the silver tsunami’s impact on the Lion City’s economy, society, and healthcare system.

What is the average lifespan in Singapore?

A recent study published by the Economic Intelligence Unit and commissioned by Prudential, a large insurance company, unveiled several key findings as it pertains to the aging population in Singapore. Interestingly, the whitepaper, titled Healthy for 100? Healthy Care in Singapore, pegs the current average lifespan in the Lion City at 83.1 years – and this is anticipated to increase dramatically.

The report posits:

“Singapore’s rapid aging will accelerate in the coming 15 years, shifting the country’s disease load. In particular, a greater proportion of people will need to manage one or more chronic diseases.”

Almost half of Singaporeans are unprepared for rising medical costs

In order to support increased longevity in the city-state, the report pointed out that people living in Singapore need to be well-supported in terms of their health and healthcare. 49% of respondents in the aforementioned report, however, say they do not feel prepared for the medical expenses of living to 100. This is a legitimate concern; in 2018, Singapore’s medical costs inflated by 10% – 10 times the Singapore economy’s estimated 2018 rate of 1%! Like most other countries, Singapore’s medical inflation has far outpaced general inflation.

What is the Singaporean government doing to address the rapidly aging population?

Globally, as well as in Singapore, there is a notable shift from a “medicalized” model to one that is more social and rehabilitative. In 2018’s budget speech, the Finance Minister announced two key measures that pivot towards this focus:

  • Expanding the ‘Community Network of Seniors’ to offer more healthcare support within a community-based setting; and
  • Streamlining and improving the delivery of services to the elderly population by consolidating social and healthcare-related services.

The Singpaorean government has, in fact, already put forth a whole smorgasbord of schemes to support seniors during their golden years, chief among them being the:

  • Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS)
  • Medisave top-ups for elderly
  • Pioneer Generation Package (PGP)
  • Medishield Life premium subsidies
  • ElderShield
  • Enhancement for Active Seniors (EASE)
  • Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) levy concession

Such subsidies and grants can be categorized into three major groups: 1) healthcare subsidies, 2) MediShield Life, and 3) day-to-day senior care. Please note that the list above is by no means exhaustive (click here for the full list).

These subsidies and schemes indeed make a lot of sense and are laudable – the combination of MediSave, MediShield Life, and Medifund play an important role in addressing rising medical costs. That being said, those without permanent residency status are not afforded access to such healthcare schemes and subsidies. Should this be the case for you, we highly recommend obtaining the best individual health insurance in Singapore for protection against rising medical costs.

Addressing rising medical costs with the best health insurance in Singapore

As we touched upon earlier in this article, rising medical costs is top among the concerns of both young and elderly Singaporeans. This concern is entirely understandable, especially when considering that the average cost of care is projected to increase tenfold in the next 15 years to SGD $51,000 annually for those aged 65 and above – the highest figure in the Asia-Pacific region! Planning ahead by obtaining the right health insurance for elderly is, therefore, paramount to peace of mind.

How to obtain the best health insurance for elderly

Getting older is a beautiful thing, but it doesn’t change the fact that our retirement years are associated with a higher risk of developing chronic conditions, such as arthritis, digestive issues, and osteoporosis. The elderly are more likely to develop chronic conditions that require ongoing, often expensive medical treatment; this explains why premiums tend to increase quite dramatically the older we get.

Review your health insurance coverage

As we age, our health needs change – and so too should our health insurance cover. For instance, you may find that the limits and benefits of your current Singapore hospitalization insurance plan are no longer sufficient to offset the majority of your treatment costs.

Your financial circumstances may also change, and you may no longer find the idea of removing your plan’s deductible unaffordable. It may also be that you are on the lookout for pre-existing condition insurance coverage, and are willing to agree to an extra loading on this particular benefit.

Know this about policy age limits

To minimize financial risk, a number of private health insurance companies impose maximum age limits on plans. This means that after a certain age – usually 64-69 years old – the policyholder will no longer be able to renew their policy. Not all insurers, however, impose maximum age limits. Another thing to note here as it pertains to age is that some insurers will request a health report as a requirement for anyone aged 65 and over applying for a plan.

Obtain health insurance as early as possible

Obtaining health insurance as early as possible is the most cost-effective option for ensuring you get the best cover at the best price. The reason is clear: any health condition that you develop under your current policy will be regarded by a new insurer as a pre-existing condition, which is one of the most common health insurance exclusions.

This is not to say it is impossible to obtain pre-existing insurance cover, merely that this option is typically only available from a select number of international health insurance providers (caveats – such as a waiting period or extra premium – will usually apply). It’s also a good idea to ensure that your insurer won’t refuse to renew your policy in light of your claims history, which leads us to our next point – the importance of securing a plan that is guaranteed renewable.

Obtain an individual or family health insurance plan that is guaranteed renewable

The most sustainable way of ensuring you have affordable, consistent insurance coverage as you age is to secure international health insurance. This is not just because they provide coverage without geographical boundaries, but most international plans are also guaranteed renewable. This means the insurer can’t reject the renewal of your policy in light of claims made previously. Other popular features of international health insurance plans include:

  • No restrictions on healthcare providers
  • Higher coverage limits
  • An extensive range of benefits in your country of residence
  • More options for pre-existing condition insurance cover

Be wary of the cheapest health insurance plans

You’ve likely heard of the popular saying, “You get what you pay for”. Health insurance plans with enticingly low premiums are often too good to be true, and will likely lead to additional costs (e.g. in the form of rejected claims) in the long run. Some of the most common pitfalls of cheap health insurance include:

  • A narrow network of healthcare providers
  • Erratic premium increases
  • Poor customer service
  • Low limits
  • Limited or no options for pre-existing condition insurance coverage
  • Many exclusions
  • Hospitalization-only cover (meaning no outpatient benefits)

Talk to a broker

When it comes to reviewing, comparing, and purchasing individual or family health insurance, your best bet is to engage the services of an expert broker, like Pacific Prime Singapore. We have strong relationships with all major insurers in the Lion City and globally, meaning we can help clients negotiate the best rates, as well as offer extra support for renewals, claims, etc. – all at no additional cost vs buying directly from the insurer. As we’re not beholden to any particular insurer, you can rest assured our advice is 100% impartial. For answers to all your health insurance questions, or a free quote, contact our team 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