Health Insurance

Insurance For Expats And Dependents In Singapore – A Guide To What You Need And Costs Involved

insurance for expats and dependents in singapore

Joanne Poh

0 Comments

0
Shares

So you’re moving to Singapore, but you’re not too worried. After all, you’ve heard about how it’s safe, modern, cosmopolitan, and has a high standard of healthcare. You’ll be just fine. Why bother with health insurance?

But before you pack your bags and board that plane, know that healthcare in Singapore is mighty expensive.

The public healthcare system involves long queues and is sometimes a bit too basic for comfort. What’s more, public healthcare subsidies are not as generous for expats as for locals.

The private healthcare system, on the other hand, is very good and you can usually see a doctor on very short notice. It is, however, also very expensive by any standards, no matter where in the world you’re from. In fact, locals often joke that it’s cheaper to die than fall ill in Singapore.

That’s why having health insurance is essential. But as an expat, the health insurance plans you’ll be considering might be a little different from what locals choose from.

Contents

  1. Do you need health insurance?
  2. What insurance plans can you choose from?
  3. How does health insurance in Singapore differ from other types of insurance?
  4. How much does health insurance cost?
  5. What happens if you leave Singapore?
  6. Where can you buy health insurance?

 

Do you need health insurance?

As an expat in Singapore, you should consider buying health insurance if you find yourself in one of the following situations:

  • You already have an employment contract in Singapore and your employer offers health insurance. However, you wish to expand your coverage as you feel the company-sponsored plan is inadequate.
  • You have started a business in Singapore and do not have a health insurance plan.
  • You are a trailing spouse who has followed your partner to Singapore, or are married to a Singaporean or PR. You are not covered by health insurance.
  • You have dependants such as children or a non-working spouse who are not adequately covered by health insurance.

Back to top

 

What insurance plans can you choose from?

Ask a Singaporean to recommend some health insurance companies, and you’ll get a very different response than you would from a fellow expat.

The truth is, both people’s recommendations would be worth taking note of.

That’s because as an expat, you are also eligible for local insurance plans so long as you have a valid visa.

Here are the three main types of insurance plans you’ll be choosing from.

  1. Local health insurance plans – These are plans from local insurance providers aimed at a local clientele. These plans are often labelled as “Integrated Shield Plans”, since they are meant to be used together with MediShield Life, the basic national health insurance plan that Singaporeans are automatically enrolled in. While expats do not receive MediShield Life coverage, they are still eligible to purchase these local insurance plans. Do note that your premiums may differ from locals’.
  2. International insurance plans from local insurance providers – Some local insurance providers now offer international health insurance plans specifically for expats. If you’re actually looking to buy a local policy (eg. like those in #1 above), make sure you clarify this with the insurer.
  3. International health insurance plans from non-Singapore insurers – These insurance plans are provided by insurers that are not based in Singapore. A quick Google search will yield scores of such companies whose policies can be purchased online.

Of course, we mustn’t ignore the fact that you might have a health insurance policy back home. However, it’s important to check the extent to which it will cover your healthcare costs here in Singapore.

Back to top

How does health insurance in Singapore differ from other types of insurance?

While one shouldn’t make broad assumptions about insurance policies without reading the specific policies involved, Singaporean health insurance policies often differ from international health insurance plans in some key ways.

Look out for these factors when trying to decide between local and international insurance policies.

Local insurance

International insurance

Where you are covered

These plans are meant to be used by those residing in Singapore. Overseas coverage is limited and usually only valid in emergency situations.

The area of coverage depends on your plan, but many will protect you in one or several regions, and some offer worldwide coverage.

Extent of coverage

You generally only receive payouts if you are hospitalised, in which case you will also be able to claim for outpatient treatment prior to and after hospitalisation.

Many plans will allow you to opt to include outpatient treatment and visits to GPs and specialists as an add-on.

Deductible

Yes, there will be a deductible unless you buy an add-on that covers this.

You can usually opt for the deductible you want, or pay a higher premium to avoid having to pay any deductible.

Co-insurance

Yes, there will be a compulsory co-payment portion of at least 5%, although you can buy an add-on that caps annual co-payment amounts.

You can usually choose between various co-payment amounts, or pay a higher premium to avoid having to pay any co-insurance at all.

Payouts

You are required to pay your healthcare provider first, and the insurer will reimburse you thereafter.

Many insurers can pay your healthcare provider directly.

Limits

Typically about $600,000 to $1,200,000

Generally over 1 million USD (1,315,400 SGD). Some plans even offer unlimited benefits.

Maternity

Pregnancy complications are mostly not covered by basic plans.

Add-ons available for maternity charges. Many pregnancy complications are usually covered by basic plans.

Newborn

Not covered unless medically underwritten.

Generally covered provided they satisfy certain conditions.

Other add-ons

Dental, vision and screening are generally not covered, except for accidental inpatient dental treatment.

Add-ons are usually available for dental, vision and screening.

Validity

Only valid when you are a legal resident of Singapore.

Depending on the plan, you might be able to continue using it if you move to another country in the region or in the world.

Of course, you mustn’t assume that your international insurance plans will offer all the benefits mentioned in the table above. Note that some insurers offer cheaper or budget plans that may cut corners.

That’s a lot to take in, so here’s a summary of some of the biggest differences you want to take note of:

There is always a co-payment component with local insurance

Following new laws that have just kicked in, co-payment is now required of local health insurance policy holders when they make claims.

This means that you will have to pay out of pocket a percentage of every dollar that you manage to successfully claim.

Let’s say you make a claim of $10,000 and have a deductible of $4,000. Your co-insurance is 10%.

After paying the deductible, you’re left with $6,000 of claims money. But that $6,000 claim is subject to co-insurance of 10%. That means that you will only receive $5,400, as you must co-pay $600.

You usually need to be hospitalised to make a local insurance claim

Insurance plans targeted at Singaporeans usually only offer payouts if the policy holder is hospitalised. If you are hospitalised, you can also make claims for outpatient treatment you spent on before and after the hospitalisation.

International policies usually give you outpatient coverage if you decide to purchase a relevant add-on. In this case, if you sprain your ankle but do not need to be hospitalised, you might be able to make a claim nonetheless.

Local insurance providers usually expect you to pay your medical bills first before making a claim

If you’ve got cashflow issues, you might want to take note that local insurance providers usually require you to settle the bill first, and then reimburse you later.

This isn’t always the case with international insurance plans. The insurer often pays the healthcare provider directly, especially when a big hospital bill is involved.

Local insurance policies are likely to charge lower premiums

Now, given the fact that local insurance policies tend to offer coverage in a narrower range of situations, AND require you to fork out a co-payment portion each time you make a claim, why should you consider them in the first place?

Well, simply put, local policies are likely to cost you less than international ones. If you find that your international policy still costs less, it’s probably because you selected a high deductible or co-insurance.

Also ensure that you’re not accidentally buying travel insurance as opposed to international health insurance, as travel insurance might require that you return home to seek further treatment wherever possible. Travel insurance also tends to contain many more exclusions, so you might be barred from making a claim if you are for instance participating in certain types of extreme sports.

Back to top

How much does health insurance cost?

To give you an idea of the types of premiums you’re looking at, here are some sample prices from AIA, one of Singapore’s best known insurers.

Sample local insurance premiums for foreigners who are NOT dependants of a Singapore citizen or PR

These annual premiums are for foreigners on the AIA HealthShield Gold Max plan, which offers enough to cover the full cost in all wards at public hospitals. To qualify, you must be residing in Singapore on a valid pass.

The deductible is $3,500 if you visit a private hospital or stay in the best ward at a public hospital. The co-insurance portion is 10%.

Age on next birthday

AIA HealthShield Gold Max Premiums (S$)

1-20

299

21-25

379

26-30

411

31-35

599

36-40

610

41-50

1,055

51-55

1,590

56-60

1,757

61-65

2,384

66-70

3,101

71-73

3,910

74-75

4,326

76-78

5,700

79-80

6,266

81-83

6,599

84-85

7,285

86-88

7,810

89-90

8,127

91-93

8,747

94-95

9,135

96-98

9,639

99-100

9,723

Sample local insurance premiums for foreigners who are dependants of a Singapore citizen or PR

If you are the dependant of a Singapore citizen or Permanent Resident, your premiums will be different.

You will also be able to use your family member’s Medisave account to pay premiums PROVIDED he or she is not paying for another insurance plan (including his/her own) using Medisave. That family member must be your spouse, parent or grandchild.

Age on next birthday

AIA HealthShield Gold Max A coverage (S$)

Premiums

Withdrawal limits from Medisave

Premium payable by cash

1-20

285

430

NA

21-25

361

495

NA

26-30

391

495

NA

31-35

570

610

NA

36-40

581

610

NA

41-50

1,005

1,035

NA

51-55

1,514

1,230

284

56-60

1,673

1,230

443

61-65

2,270

1,355

915

66-70

2,953

1,415

1,538

71-73

3,724

1,785

1,939

74-75

4,120

1,875

2,245

76-78

5,429

2,030

3,399

79-80

5,968

2,075

3,893

81-83

6,285

2,150

4,135

84-85

6,938

2,330

4,608

86-88

7,438

2,400

5,038

89-90

7,740

2,400

5,340

91-93

8,330

2,430

5,900

94-95

8,700

2,430

6,270

96-98

9,180

2,430

6,750

99-100

9,260

2,430

6,830

As you can see, you can get away with paying for all of your premiums using your partner’s Medisave account if yours is the only insurance policy being paid for.

However, if this family member is already paying for an existing policy, you will have to pay all your premiums in cash.

Also, note that if you decide to upgrade this plan for better coverage by purchasing add-ons or riders, a cash portion will need to be paid regardless of your age or Medisave use.

Sample international insurance premiums

Here are some sample premiums from Cigna Global, one of the more well-known insurers.

The following annual premiums are for a 33-year-old British person moving to Singapore.

To ensure that this plan is as similar as possible to the local one above for comparison’s sake, we’ve selected a co-insurance portion of 10%, up to a maximum of 5,000 USD.

Like local insurance policies, there is also no outpatient, vision, dental and screening coverage—these have to be added at an extra cost.

Plan

Annual Premium

Silver – Up to 1,000,000 USD

1,822.80 USD (2,400 SGD)

Gold – Up to 2,000,000 USD, + routine maternity cover up to $7,000 + travel safety service

2,340 USD (3,100 SGD)

Platinum – Unlimited annual benefits, + routine maternity cover up to $14,000 + travel safety service

3,708.96 USD (4,900 SGD)

As you can see, this international policy is way more expensive than the local ones featured above. If you were to select the 0% co-insurance option and include add-ons, the premiums would be even higher.

Back to top

What happens if you leave Singapore?

All local insurance policies are meant to be used while you are a resident of Singapore. If your residence status changes, such as if you quit your job and your employment pass gets cancelled, you will have to terminate your insurance policy.

However, if you take frequent trips home or even stay there for an extended period while still a resident of Singapore, you might be offered a little bit of coverage. Many local insurance policies or Integrated Shield Plans offer coverage abroad in the event of emergencies.

Be aware that this overseas coverage is usually capped at the cost of similar medical services at private hospitals in Singapore. While healthcare costs in Singapore are comparable to some of the world’s most expensive, if you only have a basic plan you might want to avoid going to very costly private hospitals abroad.

On the other hand, many international insurance providers will allow you to enjoy coverage should you move to a different country, although you should take care to notify them ahead of time.

Back to top

Where can you buy health insurance?

Here is a list of insurers in Singapore that offer local plans.

NTUC Income – Incomeshield

American International Assurance (AIA) – Healthshield Gold Max

Great Eastern Life – Supreme Health

Aviva – MyShield

Prudential Assurance – PRUShield

If you’re looking to buy international insurance for expats, here are some of the more well-known insurers which provide such plans

Liberty Insurance (local insurer)– myHEALTH International Health Insurance

AXA Singapore (local insurer) – GlobalCare Health Plan

Cigna Global – International Health Insurance

Aetna International – International Health Insurance

William Russel – Global Expat Health Cover Plans

Related Articles:

The Expat’s Guide to Personal Finance in Singapore

Should Expats Enrol Their Child in a Local or International School in Singapore?

The Best Data Plans from Singapore Telcos – SIM-only Plans vs Phone Plans (2018)

The Expat’s Guide to Getting a Prepaid SIM Card in Singapore

7 Survival Tips for Expats in a Singaporean Company

Are you an expat living in or moving to Singapore? Tell us what health insurance you have in the comments.

Keep updated with all the news!

Tags:

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.