3 things you can do to keep healthcare cost in check

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare inflation was already a pressing problem in Singapore.

This article was first published on Dollars & Sense

Singapore’s healthcare system has always been widely regarded as one of the best in the world. Evidence of this can be seen from the fact that our people also enjoy one of the highest life expectancies in the world – at 84.8 years.

There are many things to like about Singapore’s healthcare system. In addition to subsidies at all government hospitals, MediShield Life, a mandatory national health insurance plan, also provides coverage sized to Class B2/C wards at public hospitals for all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs). Singaporeans and PRs can also choose to enhance their coverage through a private integrated shield plan, which gives them additional benefits and coverage should they choose to stay at higher-tier wards Class A and B1 wards at public hospitals or at a private hospital.

Seeing that we already have a good healthcare system and that our people are living longer lives, the challenge we now face as a country is whether we can continue enjoying these healthcare outcomes, while keeping costs sustainable.

Medical Inflation – A Potential Problem In Singapore

In recent years, unsustainable medical inflation has become a problem in Singapore. In 2018, it was estimated that medical inflation was at 10%, which is about 10 times more than the inflation rate in Singapore.

Having medical inflation at 10% per annum is not sustainable. While the government and insurers are doing their part in ensuring that policies and products designed are sustainable from a cost perspective, as individuals, we can also do our part in ensuring that our own healthcare costs are kept in check.

#1 Keep Ourselves Healthy

Prevention is always better than cure.

The first thing we can do to lower our healthcare costs is by adopting a healthy lifestyle. This means eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and managing our stress level well.

If we don’t take care of ourselves, it could lead to other health problems. One such example is diabetes. Diabetes has become such a big problem in Singapore that in his 2017 National Day Rally Speech, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong declared war on diabetes, sharing that about 1 in 9 Singaporeans, and 1 in 3 Singaporeans above the age of 60, have this chronic disease.

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes, similar to most other chronic diseases, is largely preventable. Simple things that we can do which is within our control includes staying physically active and eating a healthy diet.

Whether it’s diabetes or other illnesses, prevention will always be better (and cheaper) than cure.  You can do your future self a favour by adopting a healthy lifestyle today, thus giving your body the best chance of staying healthy and not having to incur tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs when you are older.

#2 Have An Optimal Level Of Insurance Coverage

If medical costs are increasing, then the cost of insurance is likely to go up as well. However, we can keep our cost in check by ensuring that we have the optimal level of insurance coverage that we need – no more, no less.

For example, Singlife MyShield plan allows you to choose from three different types of plans; Plan 1Plan 2 and Plan 3. Plan 1 covers the life assured for stay in any standard ward at a private hospital. Plan 2 covers the life assured in any standard ward at a public/restructured hospital, while Plan 3 covers the life assured in any 4-bed (B1) ward in a public/restructured hospital. The plans also have different policy year limit.

Choose the right plan based on the level of coverage that you want and need. Underspending on insurance coverage that you need is risky. If an unexpected critical illness or injury occurs and we do not have sufficient insurance coverage, we may find ourselves facing a huge financial burden. This burden may even be passed down to our family members if we are unable to afford our own healthcare treatments. At the same time, if we are buying insurance plans that give us coverage beyond what we need, we end up paying more for coverage that we don’t actually require, which is wasted.

#3 Consume The Right Level Of Healthcare Services

As patients, we have the responsibility to ensure that our healthcare practitioners are not overcharging us or recommending to us treatments or tests that we do not need.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) publishes fee benchmarks for private surgeon fees. This allows consumers to know how much they can expect to pay for treatment and to ask the right questions if fees for a specific treatment appears much higher than what it should be for the procedure.

If you have a condition and are unsure which specialist to consult, insurers such as Singlife has  its own curated panel of private medical specialists who can provide quality healthcare services to its MyShield plan policyholders. Policyholders enjoy priority access to these specialists at preferred rates. Do note that Plan 2 and Plan 3 are subject to pro-ration factors if the life assured visits Singlife’s panel of specialists and stay in a private hospital as the hospital coverage is above what the life assured is entitled to under his policy.

For further peace of mind, you can enjoy pre-approval for the medical treatments or surgery that you require when you visit a specialist from Singlife’s panel of specialists, or if your panel specialist submits the pre-authorisation form on your behalf.

Do Our Part To Keep Healthcare Cost In Check

One of the downside for being well-insured is that when an illness or injury occurs, there could be a tendency to overconsume healthcare services. For example, if a policyholder knows that their healthcare cost is going to be covered by insurance, it could lead to the person opting for every healthcare treatment or test available without caring about the cost or medical necessity.

While medical inflation is not entirely within our control, as individuals, we can still limit its impact on us by taking the right steps to keep our own healthcare costs in check. We should consume healthcare services in a responsible manner, rather than to overconsume simply because we think part of the bill would be paid for by our insurers.

At the same time, just because we have insurance coverage doesn’t mean we no longer need to take care of our health. The biggest reward we can get enjoy from good health isn’t being able to reduce our healthcare cost – though that certainly is an incentive, but rather, to enjoy the freedom that a healthy lifestyle can bring us.


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