How to Save Money on Medical Bills for Minor Ailments in Singapore


Joanne Poh



It might be cheaper to die than get sick in Singapore, but that doesn’t mean we want to actually die. And no matter how broke you are, when you’re haemorrhaging from the skull or trying to sew your limbs back on with a needle and thread, the only option you have is to get yourself carted to a doctor.

But it’s so annoying when you come down with a flu and end up paying $60 just to get an MC and a course of antibiotics that your body is slowly become resistant to anyway. None of the below tips should be taken as medical advice, but here are a couple of things you can do to save money on medical bills if you’ve got a minor health issue.


Try natural remedies

If you’re down with a minor ailment or infection that you’ve experienced before and know how to deal with it, it can be cheaper and, surprisingly, better for your body to stay off medication and allow itself to heal with the help of natural remedies.

For instance, when I was working in an office, I would get a fever every year or so due to lack of sleep. Doctors would prescribe paracetamol, Panadol or something similar just as a painkiller. But paracetamol is actually really bad for your body, and I found I was much better off just staying home from work for a day or two and sleeping 20 hours until the fever broke.

These days, for minor infections such as sore throats, I usually self-medicate with lots and lots of garlic (it’s probably a good thing I work from home) and probiotic supplements which I buy on iherb.com, where you can find lots of natural remedies and supplements at bargain basement prices.

Of course, if your condition worsens you’re probably better off seeing a doctor immediately. But as a freelancer with no medical benefits, I can vouch that I rely almost entirely on natural remedies that are not only cheaper than having to see a doctor but also keep antibiotics out of my body.


Over the counter drugs

I have some friends whose parents are doctors, and they know that it’s usually not necessary to buy many common drugs at the doctors’ office. In fact, for common minor ailments, doctors usually prescribe pretty standard medication that you can buy on your own at a drugstore or pharmacy.

Things like cough syrup, paracetamol and antihistamines (which you can take to relieve allergies) can be bought without a prescription at a pharmacy, which means you get to save on the doctor’s consultation fees.


Use the company doctor

If you are a salaried employee, check your medical benefits. There’s a high chance your company has appointed a company doctor whom, depending on your company’s policies, you might be able to save money by visiting.

One of my previous employers had a company doctor that was free for us to visit, so it made sense to go there. On the other hand, another employer gave us a certain medical allowance each year which we could choose to spend at any doctor, including one appointed by the company. In that situation, it would have been cheaper to go to a polyclinic in order to stretch the medical allowance further.


If you just need an MC, see a polyclinic doctor and don’t buy the medicine

Sometimes, all you need is just a day of rest to get better. Maybe you have a slight fever brought on by fatigue, or your colleague passed you a head cold. And you shouldn’t have to pay $60 just for that MC.

What you should do in this situation is to just see a polyclinic doctor for $10 (to minimise queuing time, go after lunch as mornings tend to be crazy), but don’t buy the medicine they prescribe you.


Prevention is the best cure

If you’re falling sick a lot, you could be suffering from a compromised immune system thanks to an unhealthy lifestyle. If you never exercise, eat at McDonald’s every day and only sleep 4 hours a night, you should fully expect to fall sick often.

Prevention doesn’t only mean living a healthy lifestyle, though. If you are susceptible to certain conditions, you should actively work to prevent them by takings supplements or altering your diet. For instance, people who are prone to acne outbreaks should stay away from dairy products, while those who have lower back issues should do yoga and try to consciously correct their posture. Taking flu jabs regularly is a cost effective way to prevent a much more painful outcome further down the road.

How do you keep your medical bills to a minimum? Share your secrets in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.

  • mstar

    Dont think it’s very responsible to perpetuate dubious medical facts. If you actually read the Daily Mail article, it talks about how panadol is dangerous when OVERDOSED, and how this is often due to self medication and self adminstering over the counter drugs without knowing what is inside.

  • Winnie Choo

    Hi! I love most of your articles, but find that I have to STRONGLY disagree with 2 points.
    I work as a doctor and I can say that most doctors respect that patients have the right to reject treatment/medication if they want. If you don’t think you want the medication prescribed by your doctor, you can just speak up and say so. If you dont want so much medication, your doctor can always reduce it. If it’s too expensive, we can change it to cheaper alternatives. It reduces confusion in subsequent visits about which meds you actually did or did not take, if things like allergies happen, or if you dont get better.
    Also, paracetamol is safe in the recommended doses, and obviously unsafe in an overdose (as per the linked article). Even water is unsafe in overdoses (just google for water intoxication).
    On the other hand, I dont like to medicate myself either and find that most illnesses go away with rest and hydration, so I agree with your first point.