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Local vs. International Health Insurance in Singapore: Which is right for you?

Whether you have lived in Singapore all your life, or are a recent transplant, you may find that you or your family require private health insurance coverage. Should you go with a local or international plan, though? Read on as Pacific Prime Singapore provides you with an examination of the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Posted on Sep 24, 2015 by Travis Jones

When it comes to healthcare, Singapore really seems to have it figured out. With cutting edge medical technology and access to outstanding medical education facilities, the quality of medical services is unmatched by most countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, with a highly efficient public healthcare sector and excellent financing through the Medisave program, among others, native Singaporeans are very well off in terms of their access to quality medical care. Is it all encompassing though? The short answer is, “No,” as many native Singaporeans, as well as expats in Singapore who do not have access to public health subsidies, still turn to private medical insurance for assistance. Here, Pacific Prime takes a look at the pros and cons of both the local and international health insurance options available in Singapore, as well as which type of private medical insurance may be right for you.

 

For locals

For native Singaporeans, private health insurance of any kind may seem like a luxury. After all, the funds in each individual’s Medisave account can be used on any of the following:

  • Fertility treatment

  • Maternity

  • Screenings and tests

  • Vaccinations

  • Chronic disease treatment

  • Dialysis

  • Cancer treatment

  • Surgery

  • Hospitalization

  • Scans, such as CT or MRI scans

  • Rehabilitation

  • Palliative and hospice care

  • Plus: Flexi-Medisave can be used for outpatient treatment of people aged 65+

Also, funds from a Medisave account can be used to pay insurance premiums for plans under the MediShield Life, Integrated Shield or ElderShield schemes. Finally, for those in need, Medifund has been established as a final safety net to cover medical costs.

So why would local Singaporeans need additional health insurance? First of all, having private medical insurance allows people access to private medical facilities and hospitals that are outside of the public sphere. These facilities have an extremely high level of care, and provide the type of attention and amenities that are hard to find in the public healthcare sector. Wait times are shorter and rooms can be much nicer. Costs are also generally higher in private hospitals, so if you demand the type of care that only private hospitals can provide, availing yourself of a private health insurance plan is a good idea.

Additionally, there are maximums in place for how much of an individual’s Medisave fund can be used each day (a breakdown of which can be found on the MoH site here), so having a private health insurance plan can address any funds beyond these that a patient may be responsible for paying.

 

For expats

Again, people who are not born in Singapore do not have access to the public healthcare system, so for them possessing a private health insurance plan is a must. Some employers may arrange for insurance through a group insurance plan, but the details of these plans must be checked to make sure that coverage for all of an employee’s needs is provided. Is maternity covered? What are the annual maximums? Are your chronic conditions covered? Questions like these can go a long way in identifying the need for further insurance coverage, known as ‘top-up’ plans.

 

The case for local health insurance plans

So if you do fall into the heading of a local Singaporean or expat that needs to obtain private medical insurance, should you opt for a local plan – a plan that provides insurance benefits only inside Singapore – or an international plan – a plan that provides benefits globally?

The biggest benefit of going with a local plan is that the premiums are normally considerably lower. Since the area of coverage is restricted to only Singapore, insurance companies know that the quality of any medical care will be high, and the risk of complications will be low. Furthermore, as quite a safe place, the chance of people getting injured in Singapore versus most other countries is quite low. This is all reflected in the bottom line price for a local insurance plan in Singapore, so if you are a budget-minded person that spends a vast majority of their time in country, a local plan may be right for you.

 

International health insurance plans

From the section above, it is pretty clear that you will be paying more if you decide to purchase an international health insurance plan. So what value do you get for the money? There are actually a number of advantages to having an international plan:

  • Global coverage: No matter where you find yourself travelling in the world, whether for business, pleasure or just a visit back home, international health insurance plans will provide benefits for your medical care should you fall ill or have an accident. People who travel to the US frequently should be aware that many plans exclude the country due to its high medical costs, but plans are available that provide coverage there for an additional cost.

  • Freedom to choose: Some local plans can be quite restrictive when it comes to which doctors and medical facilities can be used in order to successfully file a claim. With international health plans, you will never have to worry that your doctor is not in-network. This is because they will pay benefits out no matter where you choose to receive treatment. Any doctor in any hospital in any country is at your disposal, because international plans aim to provide treatment virtually anywhere in the world.

  • Portability: A city like Singapore is home to people from all over the world. A side effect of this is that there are many transient people and international professionals in the city-state. With a local plan, once you move outside of Singapore, the plan is no longer of use to you, so you are likely to cancel it. Unfortunately, this opens you up to pre-existing condition exclusions, waiting periods and other inconveniences when you arrive in the next country you call home. The portability of international health insurance plans allow you to take your policy with you when you move, so coverage never lapses, and you continue to have all of your conditions covered anywhere in the world.

  • Evacuation: When you travel a lot, there is a chance that you may find yourself in an area that does not have particularly good, or even inadequate, medical care for your needs. With the evacuation coverage that is provided by some international health insurance plans, you can actually be moved - even by helicopter or jet – to an appropriate medical facility if the local options are ill equipped to treat you. This is yet another perk that local plans do not provide.

As you can see above, there are big differences behind these two types of policies. The major advantage for local plans is the price, but if it can be afforded, it’s easy to see the value of international private medical insurance.

If you have any questions about getting insured in Singapore, or you would like to receive a free price quote and plan comparison for options in the city, please contact the helpful agents at Pacific Prime Singapore today.

 

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