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How does Singapore’s healthcare system work?

Singapore’s healthcare system frequently ranks among the best in the world, and it’s admired by many other nations due to its remarkable outcomes. Primary care at government hospitals is heavily subsidized and sometimes even free for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (PRs), with more deluxe care in private rooms charging extra. 

However, things are different for expatriates living and working in the city as they are not eligible for the affordable prices available only to locals. Therefore, expats without permanent residency will need to fill the gaps in subsidized care that their status restricts them with a comprehensive expat health insurance planIn this Pacific Prime Singapore article, we’ll take a closer look at the healthcare system in Singapore.

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An overview of Singapore’s healthcare system 

Both public and private healthcare in Singapore are subject to government regulations.  Singaporeans enjoy universal healthcare – meaning the public health system and mandatory health insurance is funded by the government. Patients can access care in public facilities with ease – but public healthcare is not free.

Singapore’s public health insurance system

Singapore’s public healthcare is funded by taxes, which only cover about one-fourth of Singapore’s total health costs. Individuals and their employers pay for the rest in the form of mandatory life insurance schemes and deductions from the compulsory savings plan or the Central Provident Fund (CPF). The basic structure of the Lion City’s public health insurance system is built around Medishield, Medisave, and Medifund

Here, we will focus on Medishield and Medisave:

  • Medishield: For big expenses, Singaporeans can access their Medishield Life, a basic health insurance scheme that all permanent residents and citizens can use to pay for large bills, as well as costly outpatient treatments like kidney dialysis. Those seeking to top up their Medishield Life plans can purchase Private Integrated Shield Plans, which are designed and managed by private health insurance companies.
  • Medisave: This is a mandatory savings plan that consumes between 8 and 10.5 percent (depending on age group) of an employee’s monthly salary. Singaporeans can use their Medisave accounts to pay for some types of routine care and those of their immediate family members.

Medishield and Medisave are the core of Singapore’s health insurance system. Singaporean citizens and permanent residents pay routine expenses out of their Medisave account, and if things get bad enough that they hit their deductible, they begin using the Medishield account.

If you’re not a registered permanent resident, you won’t be eligible forgovernment help or subsidies towards your healthcare, including MediShield Life coverage. For those without private health insurance, you’ll have to pay for treatments and doctor visits out of pocket. 

For example, the first visit to a specialist outpatient doctor at the Singapore General can cost:

Subsidized Patients (Singapore Citizen) Subsidized Patients (Permanent Resident)  Private Patient  
Up to SGD 39 Up to SGD 59 SGD 114.49 to SGD 146.59 (depending on the type of specialist and experience)

Cost of healthcare in Singapore 

Unlike the healthcare system in many socialist nations, Singaporeans cannot walk into a clinic or hospital and receive treatment for free. Instead, Singapore imposes user fees for all healthcare services – a policy that’s designed to reduce the overuse of non-necessary medical services. 

For example, the Ministry of Health publishes public and private treatment fee benchmarks regularly, which gives patients an estimate of how much they should expect to pay for care. The benchmarks also give private health insurance companies a reference point when deciding what fees are considered Reasonable and Customary (R&C). Hence, if a healthcare facility charges well above the R&C fees, you may have to pay for the difference out of your own pocket.

Healthcare cost benchmark

The costs below are taken from the MOH Benchmark Fee website and typically consist of doctor’s consultation fee, ward charges, medication, tests, etc. Prices also vary depending on the type of ward.

Here, for public subsidized hospitals, we show prices for Ward B – which is a shared room ward of 5-6 beds with a semi-automated electric bed. For public unsubsidized hospital charges, we use Ward A – which is a single room with a private bathroom and other conveniences such as tv, toilets and telephone. All prices quoted below are in SGD.

Treatment Public Hospital (Subsidized) Public Hospital (Unsubsidized) Private Hospital 
Emergency Expansion of Blocked Heart Vessels 5,872 – 8,694 16,053 – 25,863 37,075 – 49,230
Respiratory Infections or Inflammations with Complications 1,062 – 2,084 2,866 – 7,012 8,816 – 22,970
Head Injury 761 – 1,950 1,151 – 2,159 3,355 – 7,328
Brain Stroke with Complications 1,483 – 2,561  3,718 – 7,424 3,760 – 8,970
Kidney Failure with Complications 1,248– 2,528 2,700– 7,002 5,946 – 20,975
Source: MoH website.  Last updated on October 20th, 2022


Depending on various factors, the amount of government subsidy can range from 50% to 80% of the bill. Citizens and permanent residents then use their insurance (e.g., MediShield Life, Integrated Shield Plans) and MediSave payouts to cover the fees.

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Hospitals in Singapore 

Public hospitals in Singapore are more autonomous than government-run institutions in other countries, which in turn creates competition in the public market and has generally led to a better patient experience, as public facilities keep costs low and service quality high. This also influences private hospitals and clinics to deliver exceptional healthcare, as they need to compete with already high-quality and cheaper public hospitals. There are many differences between public and private hospitals in Singapore and the following sections dive into the details!

Public hospitals

There are eleven public hospitals in Singapore: seven general hospitals, one women’s and children’s hospital, two community hospitals, and one psychiatric hospital. These centers provide inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care, and for specialist services like dermatological care or dentistry, patients can visit separate specialty clinics. Public hospitals in Singapore are run similarly to private centers in other countries, thanks to reforms in the 1980s that gave hospital management a greater degree of independence from governmental control.  

At a public hospital, patients can choose from nine, six, five and four-bed wards or opt for a private room. Various specialists are available at the same hospital, and institutions also run outpatient specialist clinics (such as urology and obstetrics) located away from the hospital’s main branch. Unlike public hospitals in other countries, public patients in Singapore can enjoy benefits such as short wait times, the ability to visit the same physician for every appointment, and a comfortable environment.

List of public hospitals in Singapore

  1. Alexandra hospital
  2. Changi general hospital
  3. Khoo teck puat hospital
  4. Yishun community hospital
  5. KK women’s and children’s hospital
  6. National university hospital
  7. Ng teng fong general hospital
  8. Jurong community hospital
  9. Singapore general hospital
  10. Tan tock seng hospital 
  11. Institute of mental health

Private hospitals

There are 10 private hospitals in Singapore along with a variety of private clinics, and the majority are operated by three hospital groups: Parkway Holdings, Pacific Healthcare Holdings, and Raffles Medical Group. Patients who have visited a hospital belonging to one of these groups in the past may prefer to use their services while in Singapore. Non-public hospitals tend to be smaller; offering more private rooms and care that’s not only adequate but also luxurious – if you’re willing to pay.

For example, at Gleneagles Singapore, single room rates start at SGD 722, and their most luxurious, 5-star-like suite can cost SGD 8,088 per day. At Raffles Hospital, single room rates start at SGD 728 and go up to SGD 5,888 for a luxurious presidential suite. 

List of private hospitals in Singapore

  1. Concord International Hospital
  2. Farrer Park Hospital
  3. Gleneagles Hospital
  4. Mount Alvernia Hospital
  5. Mount Elizabeth Hospital
  6. Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital
  7. Parkway East Hospital
  8. Raffles Hospital
  9. Thomson Medical Centre
  10. West Point Hospital

Expats will often choose a private hospital because, for non-permanent residents, the cost of visiting a private versus a public hospital is similar. In private hospitals, patients won’t have to wait quite as long for popular procedures, and private patients may also enjoy what some describe as better customer service.

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Private health insurance in Singapore

Majority of expats are taking out private health insurance to offset medical costs in case they ever require more serious and expensive care. Below you can find typical types of insurance coverage from an individual health insurance policy in Singapore:

  • Inpatient coverage: Generally speaking, all health insurance plans offer inpatient coverage as their bare minimum, as inpatient insurance covers your hospitalization expenses, which are usually the most expensive ones. 
  • Outpatient coverage: This benefit provides coverage for medical treatment or doctor visits that do not require an overnight stay or hospitalization.
  • Maternity coverage: This type of insurance is available as an add-on benefit, and is for those expecting to conceive a child. The benefit covers prenatal and delivery costs, and in some cases, postnatal emergency care. Maternity coverage does have a waiting period (10 – 24 months) before you can submit claims, so it is best to secure it before you get pregnant.
  • Pre-existing conditions coverage: A pre-existing condition is typically one for which you have received treatment or diagnosis before you enrol in a new health plan. As a rule, insurers exclude coverage for those conditions, but some companies allow to cover them, however, with an extra premium. 
  • Family insurance plan: Treated as a small group health plan, family insurance can cover all of your loved ones, whilst ensuring lower premiums. Those plans are designed to look after children’s health, as well as senior citizens, and everyone in between.  
  • Dental insurance and vision coverage: These are common add-ons for those looking to cover their dental and optical expenses.

Private health insurance for expats simplified 

Navigating the hundreds and thousands of options available is not easy, so it pays to talk to an experienced expat insurance broker like Pacific Prime Singapore. With 20+ years of experience helping expats find and compare health insurance, our experts are on hand to find you the best health plan for your needs and budget, give you impartial advice, and answer any questions you may have about Singapore’s healthcare system. 

If you enjoyed this blog, read our article on Singapore Citizenship vs. Permanent Residence, which goes into the differences between the two, including advantages, disadvantages, and how to apply!

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Download this free guide to learn more about the public and private healthcare systems in Singapore.

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Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime Singapore
Jantra Jacobs is a Senior Copywriter Pacific Prime with over 10 years of writing and editing experience. She writes and edits a diverse variety of online and offline copy, including sales and marketing materials ranging from articles and advertising copy to reports, guides, RFPs, and more.

Jantra curates and reports on the results of Pacific Prime’s monthly newsletters, as well as manages Pacific Prime’s Deputy Global CEO’s LinkedIn posts. Complemented by her background in business writing, Jantra’s passion for health, insurance, and employee benefits helps her create engaging content - no matter how complex the subject is.

Growing up as a third-culture kid has given her a multicultural perspective that helps her relate to expats and their families while 8 years of working remotely have given her unique insight into hybrid work arrangements and enthusiasm for employee benefits.
Jantra Jacobs