Some 2.8 million policyholders1 hold private Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) which give coverage against large medical and hospitalisation bills that’s on top of the basic national MediShield Life plan. Both these health insurance plans are reviewed periodically to ensure they meet policyholders’ needs, and keep pace with evolving medical practice, healthcare cost inflation and medical advancements.
One way we do this at Singlife is by adding benefits to our plans, such as coverage for proton beam therapy to treat cancer, inpatient psychiatric treatment, as well as cell, tissue and gene therapy.
Healthcare cost increases outpace general inflation
In 2018, medical care costs grew by 10%, which was 10 times the estimated rate of inflation2. This number is expected to rise to 10.1% in 2019. What are some key factors driving up healthcare costs?
- Our ageing population
- Advancements in medical technology
- Increasing operating costs
As healthcare cost increases continue to outpace general inflation in Singapore, insurers have had to increase health insurance premiums to cover rising medical costs. Even so, they’ve been recording large financial losses. In 2019, the insurance industry saw an underwriting loss of S$11.2 million3. If nothing is done about the continuous rise in healthcare costs, insurance premium hikes will persist and financial protection will become less accessible to Singaporeans.
Initiatives to tame rising healthcare costs
Enhanced risk management system
It’s crucial for everyone to play an active role when it comes to managing the rise in healthcare costs. Here’s how we plan to tackle this issue, and how policyholders can help:
- Enhanced risk management system
Since 2019, Singlife has been rolling out initiatives to help keep our health insurance premiums affordable for all our customers. The latest is an enhanced risk management system that automatically assesses claims for accurate and consistent payment. It also helps to identify any irregular claims and weed out any potential fraudulent claims.
Alongside this system, we’ve invested in clinical expertise and data analytics to better identify potential over-consumption, over-servicing or over-charging of healthcare services.
Panel specialists and pre-approval for certainty of claims payout
Such tools help to keep healthcare costs in check and ensure future insurance premiums remain sustainable.
- Panel specialists and pre-approval for certainty of claims payout
Preferred healthcare providers, or panels, are a common part of the global healthcare landscape, as doctors and insurers work together to pursue better outcomes and experience at a sustainable cost. Currently, there are more than 600 private medical specialists on Singlife’s panel. This gives our policyholders the assurance of a curated panel that is continually assessed to offer quality healthcare services.
In addition, our panel specialists offer value-added services and benefits to our policyholders. These include expedited appointments and preferred rates for outpatient consultation. They’re also equipped to help our policyholders request for claims pre-approval if treatment is needed, so that policyholders can go for their planned treatment with peace of mind, knowing that the cost will be covered.
Panels also play a role to curb rising healthcare costs as the specialists within our preferred network commit to – for most cases without complications – charging fees that are reasonable and customary, and largely in line with MOH’s fee benchmark.
- Co-payment features
Following recommendations by the Health Insurance Task Force, Singlife has implemented co-payment features – co-insurance and/or deductible – from 1 April 2021 for all Singlife Shield and Singlife Health Plus plans. By fostering shared responsibility between insurers and policyholders and encouraging more prudent consumption of healthcare services, healthcare costs will stay sustainable and affordable for all in the long term.
You can play an active role, too
As a customer, you can make more conscious healthcare decisions to help keep healthcare costs affordable. For example, you can choose specialists under our panel, and if you’re unsure about a prescribed treatment plan, remember that you’re entitled to ask for more detailed explanations and a better understanding of the need for treatment. Having a clearer picture on the diagnosis and prescribed treatments can help to enhance the overall healthcare experience too.
Collectively, we can make a difference
Collectively, all these efforts are aimed at actively monitoring and intervening any potential over-consumption, over-servicing or over-charging of healthcare services. They will help us to manage rising healthcare costs to ensure long term sustainability and affordability.
1. Source: https://data.gov.sg/dataset/medishield-and-integrated-shield-plans, “Number of Policyholders for MediShield and Integrated Shield Plans, Annual”, 2 December 2019, obtained as of 15 March 2021.
2. Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/insurance-linked-to-high-medical-inflation, “Insurance linked to high medical inflation: Experts”, 28 June 2019, obtained as of 15 March 2021.
3. Source: https://www.straitstimes.com/uncategorized/singapore-general-insurance-sector-made-28m-underwriting-loss-last-year-on-higher, “Singapore general insurance sector in the red with $28m underwriting loss last year on higher claims”, 24 March 2020, obtained as of 15 March 2021.