Health insurance can be puzzling with many different schemes and incomprehensible terms. To help you make sense of things, this article tells you what you need to know about health insurance in Singapore, including what is MediSave and MediShield Life, and how they work together. Additionally, I’ve touched on the latest changes to cancer coverage under MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans, because like many Singaporeans, I’m concerned about the risk of cancer and financing for cancer treatment which can be extremely costly.
- MediSave is medical savings that every Singaporean and permanent resident has. Part of your income is channelled into this account and the funds can be used for healthcare needs but there are withdrawal limits to ensure sufficiency in old age.
- MediShield Life is basic health insurance from the government that helps you pay for large hospital bills and certain costly outpatient treatments.
- Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) are private health insurance plans you can purchase from insurers to get higher coverage for your medical bills and coverage for treatment at a higher ward class.
- Even with an IP, there’ll be out-of-pocket expenses that aren’t covered by insurance, but you can reduce this with a rider, i.e. optional coverage you can add on to your IP, which comes with additional premiums.
- Not all cancer treatments are covered under MediSave, MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans.
Here are four essential facts you need to know about health insurance in Singapore
#1: MediSave can help cover your medical expenses.
MediSave isn’t insurance but it is an integral part of managing healthcare costs in Singapore. Refresher: MediSave is Singapore’s mandatory savings scheme where individuals park part of their income into a personal account which can be used to pay for certain healthcare costs for themselves and their approved family members.
Here are some of the costs you can cover using MediSave:
- inpatient and outpatient expenses
- long-term care needs
- insurance premiums
There are MediSave withdrawal limits which generally means you can use enough to cover medical costs at subsidised rates. This brings us to our next point on how MediShield Life insurance coverage helps to protect your personal savings by helping to cover certain medical costs.
#2: Every Singaporean and permanent resident has basic health insurance called MediShield Life.
The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how unexpectedly our health can change. Singaporeans’ increasing life expectancy1 also widens the window for illnesses that could require medical attention.
That’s where another government initiative comes in – MediShield Life. You may ask: What is MediShield Life?
In a nutshell, MediShield Life is a compulsory national health insurance scheme for all Singaporeans and permanent residents that is administered by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board. With MediShield Life, you have basic health insurance that helps to pay for large hospital bills and certain costly outpatient treatments, such as renal dialysis and chemotherapy for cancer.
MediShield Life covers you regardless of your age and health condition, and it’s sized for subsidised treatment in public hospitals, pegged at Class B2 or C wards. There are also claim limits for your MediShield Life benefits.
If you opt for unsubsidised treatment or hospitalisation at a higher ward class or private hospital, MediShield Life alone won’t be able to cover as much of your hospital bill.
#3: Integrated Shield Plans can enhance your coverage and help cover stays in private hospitals.
An Integrated Shield Plan (IP) gives you additional benefits on top of your MediShield Life coverage. Here are some ways an Integrated Shield Plan can benefit you:
- Higher coverage for your medical bills
- Freedom to choose more comfortable air-conditioned hospital wards for one patient or shared with up to three others (private hospital, or Class A or B1 ward in a public hospital)
- Flexibility to select a doctor for your treatment
- Coverage for pre- and post-hospital treatment expenses
Here’s a look at the benefits of Singlife's IP, Singlife Shield.
- High annual policy limit of up to S$2 million/year when you see one of Singlife's panel medical specialists
- Free cover of up to S$50,000 for newborns2 up to 6 months old and discounted premium rates for children3 up to 20 Age Next Birthday
- Covers pre-hospital treatment (up to 180 days) and post-hospital treatment (up to 365 days)
- Co-insurance capped at S$25,500/year to limit out-of-pocket expenses for large medical bills
- Priority access to a panel of more than 500 medical specialists within three working days of making an appointment
- Up to five times the MediShield Life claim limit for outpatient cancer drug treatments4 on the Cancer Drug List (CDL) and services
- Additional cancer coverage including for Proton Beam Therapy, Cell, Tissue and Gene Therapy and preventive treatments
#4: Even with health insurance in Singapore, there’ll be upfront costs to bear before making a claim and not all medical costs will be covered.
Even with MediShield Life and regardless of whether you’re covered by an IP, you’ll have to pay a part of your hospital bill out of pocket or using your MediSave funds if you’re hospitalised. This is to encourage responsible healthcare consumption and keep healthcare costs and insurance premiums manageable.
These are two out-of-pocket expenses you’ll need to pay before your insurance kicks in:
- Deductible: This is the sum you have to pay for your hospital bill, before the insurer makes any payout. It’s capped at a certain amount each policy year.
- Co-insurance: This is the percentage of the hospital bill, minus the deductible, that you have to pay. The insurer pays the rest.
For more information, there’s an article to help you understand deductibles and co-insurance better.
By adding a rider such as Singlife Health Plus to your IP, you’ll be able to reduce your out-of-pocket expenses significantly.
To keep healthcare affordable, from 1 April 2023, MediSave, MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans will only provide coverage to outpatient cancer treatments that are on the CDL, up to a claim limit.
For clarity, this means you have to pay the portion of any medical bill that’s above your claim limits. To help supplement the coverage for cancer treatments, there is now a new cancer protection plan in the market. Singlife Cancer Cover Plus reimburses the charges for outpatient cancer drug treatments (CDL and non-CDL), outpatient cancer drug services as well as selected cancer treatments (e.g., Proton Beam Therapy and Cell Tissue and Gene Therapy) up to S$1.5 million worldwide. This can significantly reduce my out-of-pocket expenses for cancer treatment both locally and overseas, which is reassuring as I don’t want my loved ones to be financially burdened should I fall ill.
Safeguard yourself against unexpected medical bills and the high cost of cancer
Now that you have a better idea of how health insurance works in Singapore, you can take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones with confidence. MediShield Life gives you basic coverage. For higher coverage, more choices and lower out-of-pocket costs, you can add an IP and consider adding a rider to further reduce your out-of-pocket expenses. Finally, if you want the assurance of getting the cancer treatment you need, including global treatment, without burdening yourself and your loved ones financially, you can complement your cancer protection under existing medical plans with a plan like Singlife Cancer Cover Plus.
1. Source: The Straits Times© Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Extracted with permission. “Singaporeans’ average life expectancy to reach 85.4 years in 2040, third highest in the world: Study,” 17 October 2018.
2. Free newborn benefit applies to a newborn child(ren) from 15 days old of their age on the date of discharge from hospital after birth, whichever is later. The benefit ends on the date the newborn is 6 months old or takes up a Medisave-approved Integrated Shield Plan, whichever is earlier. Both parents must be covered under Singlife Shield Plan 1 or Plan 2 continuously for at least 10 months from the cover start date of their respective policies on the newborn's date of birth.
3. Applicable if both parents are covered under Singlife Shield Plan 1 or Plan 2. Discounted premium rates for child(ren) refers to the Family Discount for child(ren) which is applicable to the child up to age 20 at next birthday (ANB). Please refer to Product Summary for more details.
4. Only cancer drug treatments on the Cancer Drug List (CDL) are claimable under Outpatient Cancer Drug Treatment benefit. Outpatient Cancer Drug Services that are part of a cancer drug treatment (including treatments not on the CDL), are claimable under the Outpatient Cancer Drug Services benefit.