Thanks to the slew of publicity about the newly implemented MediShield Life, which covers all Singaporeans, it has resulted in more awareness and interest in finding out how much we’re covered for medically, and what we can do to improve our coverage. That extra coverage comes from Integrated Shield Plans, and two out of every three Singaporeans are already covered by them.
But now with 22 Integrated Shield Plan options from six private insurers to choose from, it also means that there’s a fair bit of overlap in terms of coverage. In Singaporean slang, you could say “same same but different”.
So how do the private insurers make their products different from their competitors?
Think of your favourite nasi padang stall. You can pick whatever ingredients you want to add but they’re always served with a portion of rice. When it comes to health insurance, your Integrated Shield Plan is the rice, and the extra ingredients are called riders. Riders are optional benefits that you can pay a little more for. They are added to your chosen Integrated Shield Plan to enhance your coverage.
For example, a common rider will cover your deductible and co-insurance. In simple terms, when you make an insurance claim, a portion of your bill still needs to be paid by you. This portion is often a combination of a deductible and co-insurance payment. If you pay for a rider that covers your deductible and co-insurance, then you can get the insurance company to fully reimburse your claim.
In fact, this rider is so popular that many insurance companies often use it in their brochures. Nothing attracts a customer like the prospect of being discharged from hospital with the insurance company footing your entire bill.
That said, I must point out the misconception some might have – just because you can get your claim fully reimbursed doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay the hospital at all. You will still need to make payment first, and then, once your claims have been processed, the insurance company will pay you.
The catch is when you realise that some insurance providers don’t just offer this full reimbursement benefit alone. They lump in other “optional” benefits, some of which are good, but others leave you scratching your head.
What are some of these other benefits?
One of the most popular riders in Singapore in the past couple of years is known as the “full rider”, where you pay a higher premium on your IP but if you need to go to the hospital, you won’t have to pay a single cent – the insurer foots the entire bill.
But, as of 8 Mar 2018, the Government has introduced new guidelines for full riders. Insurers will phase them out and they will be offered as co-payment riders, meaning patients have to pay at least 5% of their medical bill while the insurer pays the rest.
For example, there’s a rider out there that provides you with a daily cash benefit for every day you’re in hospital, as well as an extra cash benefit when you’re discharged. It’s like they’re paying you to remain in hospital! And if you’re paying deductibles and co-insurance, you’ll want to be discharged as soon as possible.
A better rider benefit would be one that covers home visits by a General Practitioner, home nurse, physiotherapist or other home care medical service providers. That kind of additional coverage is extremely valuable because you can have medical coverage in the comfort of your home.
These insurance riders sound good, so what’s the catch? What should I look out for?
Unlike your chosen integrated shield plan, which usually can be paid for directly by your Medisave account, the premiums for riders are not payable by Medisave at all. This means you’ll need to pay attention to how much the premiums cost, because they will affect your monthly cashflow.
You’ll have to consider if you want to set aside an additional sum of money to pay for the riders. For someone aged between 31 and 40 years old, depending on the riders you choose, you could be paying anything from $100 to $500 each year per rider. What’s more, rider premiums will increase with age, so don’t be shocked if you end up paying more than $1,000 each year for these riders once you hit your 60s.
Wow… that’s quite the dilemma then… how do I decide if I should get a rider or not?
Well, clearly it depends on your lifestyle and whether you can afford them. If you’re just starting out with your career, it might seem like a lot to pay an extra two to three hundred dollars out of your pocket each year. Then again, you could see it as paying less than $1 a day for peace of mind, knowing that if you do get hospitalised, you won’t need to pay for a hefty deductible or co-insurance for example.
Remember, these riders are optional, so it’s okay to just stick with your Integrated Shield Plan if you feel it gives you sufficient coverage.
Alternatively, look for an insurance provider that gives you full control over which riders you want and which you don’t. With AXA Shield, for example, you have a choice of three riders – the AXA Basic Care Rider, the AXA General Care Rider and the AXA Home Care Rider.
The AXA Basic Care Rider is the one that covers your deductible and co-insurance component, so that you can be hospitalised knowing that most of your expenses are covered by your policy, sometimes even by 100%.
The AXA General Care rider covers any extra costs you might have incurred, such as ambulance or taxi charges, or even Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments. It also includes a daily Hospital Cash Incentive of up to $250 a day if you are admitted to a hospital ward that is lower than what you are entitled to.
You can also consider the AXA Home Care Rider, the first of its kind in Singapore. This covers nursing services in the comfort of your home, General Practitioner home visits, or even the costs of your stay in a hospice care institution.
So depending on your lifestyle, what you can afford on an annual basis, and perhaps even look at your family’s medical history as well, you can decide if any or all of these riders are suitable for you.
Are you interested in the new AXA Integrated Shield Plans? Apply Now to get the Integrated Shield plan with up to three riders for the most comprehensive coverage.
This article is brought to you in collaboration with AXA.