Why is health insurance necessary?
What is health insurance and why do you need it? Health insurance serves to protect you from one of the biggest financial risks you might ever face – healthcare expenses. Essentially, health insurance means protection from hospitalisation and medical costs, as well as medical bills arising from injuries, illnesses, or disabilities. TL;DR? All it takes is one expensive accident or illness to wipe out your savings and retirement funds. Therefore, you will need health insurance to deal with the ever-increasing healthcare costs.
One phrase you need to know is healthcare inflation. Inflation basically drives up prices of goods and services by around 3% each year. Healthcare inflation, on the other hand, runs up to 2 or 3 times that general inflation rate. Why? That’s because advances in medicine, medical research, and medical technology are costly. In fact, these are the 3 main factors driving healthcare costs in Singapore today.
If you fall ill, get hospitalised for 3 weeks on no-pay leave, and receive a S$40,000 medical bill upon check-out, your health insurance plan should be able to absorb a huge chunk of those healthcare costs for you. You may end up paying 5%, and another S$1,500 or so in deductibles (you will learn about this later) – but the rest will be "paid" by your insurance company. This way, you don't have to empty your bank account and borrow from your family, friends, and loan sharks to pay your hospital and medical expenses.
If you are a sole breadwinner who got diagnosed with a terminal or critical illness (touch wood!), are forced to stop working, and unfortunately pass on, you'll be leaving your spouse, parents, or children behind with no source of income – and hefty medical expenses to foot. Your life insurance plans will give them lump-sum payout cheques to help them continue with their lives for a short period (while they find new sources of income) – basically protecting their financial stability for a year or two.
How Does Health Insurance Work in Singapore?
Best Health Insurance in Singapore
|HealthShield Gold Max||AIA||Inpatient/Day surgery, outpatient treatment|
|PRUShield||Prudential||Pre and post hospitalisation, Inpatient/Day surgery|
|IncomeShield||NTUC Income||Outpatient treatment, organ transplant|
|SupremeHealth||Great Eastern||Outpatient treatment, high claim limit per policy year|
|Shield||AXA||Cheapest premium, emergency overseas treatment|
|Raffles Shield||Raffles||High claim limit per policy year, pre and post hospitalisation|
Should You Buy Additional Health Insurance Coverage?
A common reason why some Singaporeans do not purchase additional healthcare coverage is because they already have enough coverage with MediShield and their employer’s insurance scheme. Yet, everyone’s health needs and insurance may different – you should check your insurance policies for gaps, limitations and exclusions. So, before you assume that your current health insurance policies are sufficient, evaluate your total coverage, look for gaps, and consider purchasing additional health insurance coverage to cover those bases and reduce your risk of running into an unpaid hefty medical bill.
What to Consider Before Choosing an Integrated Shield Plan?
When you are considering to purchase an insurance health plan, first budget your finances to ensure you can sustainably afford the monthly premiums for the next couple of years. Next, ensure you will be able to afford future premiums which will be higher than your current premiums. Health insurance premiums increase constantly for 2 reasons: as you age, your health risks increase; healthcare and medical costs are always advancing and on the rise.
While cost of an insurance plan is something you definitely have to consider, you should not just settle for the cheapest plan you see. This way, you may be compromising on the healthcare coverage you receive. Instead, you should consider looking for a plan that fits your budget and provides extensive coverage. However, an insurance plan with high and all-encompassing healthcare coverage may come with hefty premiums and require you to pay more than what you can sustain in the long term. You will want to strike a practical balance here.
Why get an Integrated Shield Plan?
You may have MediShield and your company’s insurance plan under your belt but that doesn't guarantee comprehensive healthcare coverage for you. The only way to ensure you’ll have 100% adequate coverage is to identify any gaps in your existing policies and seek out relevant health insurance policies to bridge those gaps.
Higher claim limits
An Integrated Shield Plan (IP plan) basically serves to increase your annual claim limit for your MediShield Life plan – therefore increasing your healthcare coverage. MediShield Life's annual claim limit is only S$100,000 but an Integrated Shield Plan's annual claim limit may run up to S$1,000,000 instead. With the increase in claim limit, you will also be covered for a wider range of healthcare conditions, more ward classes, pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses, and medical coverage outside of Singapore.
Higher ward classes
The basic MediShield Life provides Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) with coverage for Class B2 and C wards in public hospitals. While you can still opt to stay in Class A or B1 wards, it requires you to top-up the excess cost. This is one of the reasons why individuals may opt for an Integrated Shield Plan (IP) – so that they can have insurance coverage for higher-tier wards in public and private hospitals. A higher-tier ward or access to private hospitals may reduce your waiting time for access to medical treatments and hospitalisation.
Another plus point that people like about getting an Integrated Shield Plan is the access to an insurance agent. Your agent is your point of contact for anything health insurance-related. Hence, when you need to make a claim or check your coverage, you can simply drop your agent a text or call instead of browsing through multiple hospital and government websites.
MediShield Life, for instance, is a mandatory health insurance offered by Singapore's Ministry of Health (MOH), with coverage for all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) – but it has its limitations such as a S$100,000 claim limit per year, access to only class B2 and C wards in public hospitals, no coverage for maternity-related conditions, hospice, and moreAn Integrated Shield Plan (IP plan) basically serves to increase your annual claim limit for your MediShield Life plan – therefore increasing your healthcare coverage. MediShield Life's annual claim limit is only S$100,000 but an Integrated Shield Plan's annual claim limit may run up to S$1,000,000 instead. With the increase in claim limit, you will also be covered for a wider range of healthcare conditions, more ward classes, pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses, and medical coverage outside of Singapore.
Your employer’s policy may also have a variety of limitations such as deductibles, sub-limits, or co-insurance, and the probability of you leaving the job or facing retrenchment. Having your personal health insurance or Integrated Shield Plan (IP) will give you a plan to fall back on.An Integrated Shield Plan (IP plan) basically serves to increase your annual claim limit for your MediShield Life plan – therefore increasing your healthcare coverage. MediShield Life's annual claim limit is only S$100,000 but an Integrated Shield Plan's annual claim limit may run up to S$1,000,000 instead. With the increase in claim limit, you will also be covered for a wider range of healthcare conditions, more ward classes, pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses, and medical coverage outside of Singapore.
Integrated Shield Plans Premium
|Insurance Company||Integrated Shield Plan||Premiums (IP Plan only)|
|NTUC Income||NTUC IncomeShield||S$255 for ages 21 to 30 |
S$375 for ages 31 to 35
S$392 for ages 36 to 40
S$648 for ages 41 to 45
|AIA||AIA HealthShield Gold Max||S$191 for ages 21 to 25 |
S$247 for ages 26-30
S$300 for ages 31-35
S$334 for ages 36-40
S$754 for ages 41-45
S$818 for ages 46-50
S$1,165 for ages 51-55
|Great Eastern||Great Eastern SupremeHealth||S$233 for ages 21 to 30|
S$286 for ages 31 to 35
S$299 for ages 36 to 40
S$638 for ages 41 to 45
Why get an IP Rider Plan?
Regardless of whether you have MediShield Life or Integrated Shield plan — once you’re hospitalised, you’ll need to pay a certain portion of your hospital bill out of pocket or Medisave. This portion is made up of:
This is like the excess in car insurance — you need to pay this the first time you get hospitalised in a policy year before the insurer will pay the rest. It’s either $2,000 (B2 ward), $2,500 (B1 ward) or $3,500 (A ward/private).
You also have to co-pay 10% of the hospital bill regardless of the deductible.
IP Riders offset these costs
All IPs offer “riders” (add-ons) that reduce those costs down to just 5% co-insurance. IP riders are add-ons to your Integrated Shield Plan that give you more coverage/benefits.
Integrated Shield Plans: Riders Premiums
|INSURANCE COMPANY||IP PLAN RIDERS||PREMIUMS (ANNUAL, CANNOT BE PAID WITH CPF)|
|NTUC Income||2 riders available – NTUC Income Deluxe Care, and the NTUC Income Classic Care||NTUC Income Deluxe Care premiums:|
S$500 for ages 21 to 25
S$506 for ages 26 to 30
S$632 for ages 31 to 35
S$663 for ages 36 to 40
NTUC Income Classic Care premiums:
S$204 for ages 21 to 30
S$205 for ages 31 to 40
S$405 for ages 41 to 50
|AIA||1 rider available – AIA Max VitalHealth||AIA Max VitalHealth premiums:|
S$314 for ages 21 to 30
S$367 for ages 31 to 40
S$432 for ages 41 to 45
S$487 for ages 46 to 50
|Great Eastern||2 riders available – GREAT TotalCare, and GREAT TotalCare Plus||GREAT TotalCare premiums:|
S$327 for ages 21 to 30
S$415 for ages 31 to 35
S$418 for ages 36 to 40
S$620 for ages 41 to 45
GREAT TotalCare Plus premiums:
S$213 for ages 19 to 30
S$246 for ages 31 to 40
S$298 for ages 41 to 50
What types of Health Insurance are there?
Types of Health Insurance in Singapore
Hospital Income Insurance
Hospital income insurance offers you a fixed amount of cash daily (e.g. S$250) from the insurer for each day you’re hospitalised, up to a maximum number of days (e.g. 365 days) per accident or illness.
Long-Term Care Insurance
Long-term care insurance offers you a fixed amount of cash monthly (e.g. S$400) for long-term nursing care that typically includes assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, and feeding. This coverage is often offered by insurers in the form of ElderShield supplements.
Disability Income Insurance
Disability income insurance offers you “income replacement” of up to a certain percentage of your gross monthly income. So, if you’re making S$5,000 a month, your insurer might allow you to insure 80% (varies by insurer) of your income – meaning in the event of an accident that leaves you disabled, your monthly payout would be S$4,000 until you’re able to perform your duties once again.
Hospitalisation insurance offers you reimbursement from the insurer for any medical expenses, treatment bills, and hospitalisation costs. Depending on the policy, the coverage you receive may either be full or limited.
Critical Illness Insurance
Critical illness insurance offers you a lump sum payment from the insurer to help alleviate hefty medical expenses in the event you are diagnosed with a critical illness such as cancer, heart attack, kidney failure, coma, etc. The list of qualifying critical illnesses varies by insurer.
Terminal Illness Insurance
Similar to critical illness insurance plans, a terminal illness insurance plan gives you a lump-sum payout if your doctor diagnoses you with a terminal illness – meaning you are down with an end-stage illness and have been given a limited amount of time to live.
Integrated Shield Plans: Which Treatments and Illnesses Are Covered?
- If you’re hospitalised, you’ll be staying in either a private or public hospital ward – which, like hotels, charges you for every night you stay, the services you use, and a bunch of miscellaneous fees. If you’re in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) wards? It’s so much more expensive right? Most Integrated Shield Plans (IP plans) will cover ICU stays too.
- Before you are discharged from the hospital, if your attending doctor at the hospital refers you to be transferred to a community hospital for further medical treatments and care, your community hospital stay can be filed for claims with your Integrated Shield Plan.
Inpatient Psychiatric Treatments
- If you were hospitalised and you receive psychiatric treatments during your hospitalisation stay, the expenses incurred from these inpatient psychiatric treatments can be filed for claims – usually subject to a fixed coverage limit, e.g. only S$500 per day for 35 days in a year if you have an Aviva MyShield Plan 3.
- If your doctor tells you that you will need to be hospitalised to go under the knife for a surgery, ask your doctor if the surgery is in the Ministry of Health’s Table of Surgical Procedures 1A to 7C. If it is, then rest assure your surgery, surgical implants, including Gamma Knife radiosurgery, will be eligible for claims under your Integrated Shield Plan. If you have a day surgery, however, you will need to check if your health insurance plan covers day surgeries – and any terms and conditions that may limit your day surgery coverage limit.
Outpatient (Not Hospitalised)
- So, generally you need to first be hospitalised to be even eligible for any claims from your Integrated Shield Plan (IP plan). However, the IP plan also covers outpatient long-term illnesses’ treatments that you don’t usually get hospitalised for – such as kidney dialysis erythropoietin, cancer radiotherapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and stereotactic radiotherapy. Other claimable outpatient treatments include immunosuppressants for organ transplant patients, and long-term parenteral nutrition (what you may know as tube feeding).
- You must have heard of this term: pre- and post-hospitalisation. If your hospitalisation stay and the treatments you received during your stay have all been approved by your insurance company for claims, then you can start filing your pre-hospitalisation treatments for claims. That means, if you have been visiting the doctor for the same illness even before you were hospitalised, you can submit the receipts for claims within 180 days (or lesser, depends on your plan).
- When you’re about to be discharged from the hospital, chances are your doctor will ask you to schedule another appointment for follow-up treatments. While you may most likely come back to the same hospital, some doctors may refer you to other medical centres, clinics, or even Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) clinics for post-hospitalisation treatments. If your plan allows, and your doctor referred you to an insurance-approved clinic, you will be able to claim these treatments’ bills.
Major Organ Transplants
- If you are receiving or donating one of your major organs in a hospital that’s recognised by your insurance company, you will be able to claim part or the full sum of your transplant medical expenses – depends on the coverage limit for organ transplants that's stated in your policy contract. Aviva MyShield for instance, offers you full aka "As Charged" coverage for major organ transplants of the heart, liver, lung, skin, cornea etc.
- If you are a female with an IP plan, some insurance companies do allow you to make claims if you were to run into pregnancy or delivery complications – not all, just some complications. The type of pregnancy complications you can claim for differs from insurance company to company – some may offer none, some may offer 6 conditions, while some offer up to 36 pregnancy-related complications.
- If you were to be diagnosed with and treated for congenital abnormalities, you may be able claim these medical treatment expenses up to the coverage limit listed in your policy (for e.g. full aka "As Charged" coverage if you hold the Aviva MyShield plan and you ran into congenital abnormalities-related conditions while you were hospitalised).
How do I pay for Health Insurance?
This may be confusing for most. Here's a breakdown of how you can pay.
Methods to pay
Using MediSave to pay
When you pay the monthly premium for your Integrated Shield Plan (IP), you are collectively paying for the premiums of both MediShield Life and the additional IP coverage provided by your private insurer. The MediShield Life portion can be fully paid by MediSave. The private insurance component can also be paid via MediSave – although not the full sum due to additional withdrawal limits MediSave has set. For those aged 40 years and below, the limit is S$300 per year. For those aged 41 to 70 years old, the limit is S$600 per year. For those aged 71 and above, the limit is S$900. If the premiums for the coverage by a private insurer exceeds the above mentioned limit, any excess has to be paid by cash. Finally, premiums of any additional IP riders cannot be paid with MediSave.
What if my MediSave is insufficient?
MediSave can be used to not only pay for your MediShield Life but also of those of your immediate family members. In the event that you have insufficient balance in your MediSave account, you can use one of your family members’ MediSave account to pay for your MediShield and any additional IPs. However, if you have insufficient balance in your MediSave account and have limited family support, you will be provided with the option to pay the outstanding premiums for your MediShield Life via installments.
How do I apply for a Health Insurance Plan?
Applying for a Health Insurance Plan through MoneySmart
Step 1Do A Quiz
If you find downloading insurance policy brochures and comparing them side by side a hassle, our intelligent system can do the comparison for you. Answer some questions online and we'll have you going.
Step 2Speak To Our Insurance Specialists
After you submit your quiz, our expert insurance specialist team members may drop you a call to clarify your needs and explain your options to you. Seize this chance to ask our friendly colleagues the burning questions you may have about health insurance!
Step 3Apply And Purchase Your Health Insurance
Once you have spoken to our insurance specialists, considered your options, and planned your finances, you are ready to apply for your health insurance plan online through our portal.
Health Insurance Beginner Guides
Here are 3 beginner guides that you can read and bookmark for easy reference:
Health Insurance Glossary
What are deductibles? Let's say if you have a Great Eastern Supreme Health Integrated Shield Plan, and you see that there's a table called "Deductible" saying that you need to pay S$2,500 for a class B1 ward in public hospitals per policy year, what does that mean? That means, if you have been admitted to a class B1 ward in a public hospital this year, you will need to first pay the stated deductible amount – S$2,500 in this case – before your insurance company will pay the rest of the bill for you. If your hospital bill were lesser than the deductible amount, you cannot even file this bill for claims. Deductibles serve to define what is a minor healthcare expense from a major hospital bill that you might truly need the insurance company's help with.
What is co-insurance? Although used interchangeably with co-pay at times, co-insurance is not the same as co-payment (aka co-pay). The purpose of co-insurance is to have you share the cost of your hospital bill with your insurance company. In Singapore, when you get a hospital bill, you have to first pay the deductible (a few thousand dollars). Then, you pay co-insurance – which, in Singapore, is usually 20%, 15%, or 10% of the total bill (minus the deductibles you have already paid). Most insurance companies offer co-insurance riders that you can purchase to lower your co-insurance to the legal minimum of 5%.
Co-Payment, otherwise known as copay, is not the same as co-insurance. Co-payment refers to fixed or flat rates that you have to pay for a doctor's consultation, dental visit etc. AXA Shield, for example, offers co-pay rates at S$10 per General Practitioners (GP) consultation, S$130 for physiotherapy sessions, S$100 for specialist consultations, and S$15 for dental – although all doctors and clinics must be an AXA-approved panel doctor, clinic or hospital.
Your money deposited to your CPF MediSave account has multiple uses – to pay the premiums of you (and your dependents') MediShield Life, any small amounts incurred in minor hospital bills, and premiums of your Integrated Shield Plans. For Singaporeans and permanent residents under age 40, you can only withdraw an additional S$300 per year; S$600 if you are between ages 41 to 71; S$900 if you are age 71 and above. You cannot use your MediSave to pay for your Integrated Shield Plans' riders (IP riders) premiums.
Pro Ration Factors
Pro-ration only comes into play when you seek medical treatment at a hospital or ward that is of a higher class than what is covered within your Shield Plan. Let's say you are a permanent resident (PR) hold a Shield plan for class B1 wards in public hospitals, but in an emergency, you were sent to a private hospital for a day surgery. In that case, you will have a 50% pro-ration factor – which means that you will have to pay deductibles for a private hospital ward, and 50% (pro-rated) of the hospital bill. Yup, so consider your Shield plan carefully – ask yourself, which hospitals nearest to you and your workplace? Are they private or public hospitals?
Your medical costs – or used interchangeably with healthcare costs, hospital bills, medical expenses – refers to the money you spend on your hospitalisation ward charges, doctors and nurses' fees, all the disposable items you may use, your medicine, surgery fees and equipments involved, any extra long-term consultation and treatment fees, tests, scans – basically every little thing you do an every person you speak to in a hospital or clinic comes at a cost. Just look at a 2 or 3-page real-life hospitalisation bill and you will understand.
What are claim limits in health insurance? Otherwise commonly known as hospitalisation claims limit, or insurance coverage limit, a claims limit is basically the maximum amount of money for a certain medical treatment that your insurance company will pay for you. Let's say you have a Prudential PruShield Standard Plan for Class B1 wards in public hospitals, your daily hospital room claim limit is S$1,700. That means, your insurance company will only pay S$1,700 per day for your hospital room charges in a class B1 ward in public hospitals. Do not confuse your benefits' claim limits with the attractive-looking maximum annual coverage limit which is often presented to you in S$1 or $2.5 million – basically a total sum of all the individual benefits' claim limits.
When a health insurance conversation comes up, insurance agents often like to quote high inflation rates and rising healthcare costs in Singapore. Inflation refers to the rise of the price of a product or service. So, when used in a medical or healthcare context, medical inflation refers to the rising prices of medical treatments. So, are healthcare costs really rising in Singapore? Yes, due to an ageing population with more medical problems, newer high-tech and expensive medical treatments, and the rising salaries of medical workers.
Take a look at all the different insurance companies' websites and you will notice some of them like Prudential PruShield, AIA HealthShield Gold Max, and Aviva MyHealthPlus offer a "concierge service". What does concierge service mean? For some insurance companies such as Prudential, they have actual staff in hospitals such as Mount Alvernia (level 1), and Raffles Hospital (level 8) to help you with submitting claims, taxi vouchers, parking coupons, and any other questions related to your plan.
Insurance companies often have their own list of approved clinics and hospitals that they have an ongoing partnership with. Many times, you have to seek medical treatment at an approved panel clinic or hospital to be able to make a full claim from your Integrated Shield Plan (IP plan). If you were to visit a non-panel clinic, chances are your claims may be capped or limited to a certain percentage of the bill, or you may not be allowed to claim at all. So, don't wait until you're ill before you start looking at the panel clinics and hospitals that are approved by your health insurance plan – in fact, you should start looking at these things even before you buy your health insurance policy. Let's just say it doesn't make sense to buy a plan that doesn't allow you to go to Mount Alvernia Hospital when you live 5 minutes away from it, right?
Pre-existing conditions basically refer to medical or health issues, problems, and diagnosis that you may have had before you purchase your new health insurance. Why are insurance companies always talking about pre-existing conditions? That's because if you have an ongoing history of serious asthma, for example, you are more likely to be hospitalised in the event your asthma flares up – which also means more money that the insurance company has to spend on your claims. For this reason, insurance companies may choose not to cover you for any of your pre-existing conditions (then get insurance for what, right?) or increase your premiums to cover your pre-existing conditions as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much is Health Insurance in Singapore?
- The average cost of an Integrated Shield Plan (IP) that covers up to B1 ward for a 35 year old individual that does not smoke is S$83. The above mentioned cost does not include premiums for MediShield Life.
How does Health Insurance work in Singapore?
- All Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) are entitled to basic governmental health insurance called MediShield Life. You can opt to increase your healthcare coverage by getting additional health private insurance plans such as Integrated Shield Plans.
Can foreigners buy Health Insurance in Singapore?
- While foreigners do not qualify for the governmental healthcare insurance plan, MediShield Life, you can get health insurance plans meant for foreigners from most major private insurance providers in Singapore.
How much does it cost to see a doctor in Singapore?
- Based on the sample costs provided in government website MoneySense, a 3-day stay in a Class A ward in a public hospital costs about S$900, while miscellaneous hospital bills (e.g. doctor’s fees) can amount to S$3,200.
Do you need Health Insurance in Singapore?
- Medishield Life is a mandatory governmental health insurance plan that all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents will be automatically enrolled in and need to maintain. You may enhance your Medishield Life healthcare coverage by purchasing an Integrated Shield Plan from private insurers in Singapore.
Can you opt out of MediShield life?
- You cannot opt out of MediShield Life unlike the previous MediShield scheme. You can choose to pay for your MediShield Life premiums using Medisave or cash.
What is an Integrated Shield Plan?
- An Integrated Shield Plan (IP) is an optional health coverage provided by private insurance companies such as AIA, Aviva, AXA, Great Eastern, FWD, Prudential, NTUC Income, Raffles Medical Group, and more.
How do I know if I have an Integrated Shield Plan (IP)?
- Log in to your CPF account on www.cpf.gov.sg and click on ‘My Message’. You will be able to see if you have any Integrated Shield Plans (IPs), and which insurance provider you have been registered with.
Is it compulsory to have an Integrated Shield plan?
- No, it is not compulsory to get an Integrated Shield plan (IP). All Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) have basic coverage from MediShield Life. You can opt for an IP if you want to stay in a class A or B1 ward in public hospitals or private hospitals, and want to extend your healthcare coverage.
Can I use MediSave to pay for my health insurance?
- Yes, you can use MediSave to pay for MediShield Life and Integrated Shield plan (IP). However, premiums of IP riders have to be paid in cash.
Will the Integrated Shield Plan premiums increase with age?
- Yes, premiums increase with age. Also, due to rising healthcare costs, the premiums for the private insurance component of the Integrated Shield Plans (IP) have been increasing by an average of 7% per year.
Can I have multiple Shield Plans?
- No. You can only use MediSave to pay for one Integrated Shield Plan for yourself at any point in time. This is because the IPs provide generally similar coverage, and hospital or medical treatment bills can only be claimed from one plan.