Guide to Health Insurance in Singapore for Foreigners (Expats & Dependents)

insurance for expats and dependents in singapore

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.

Here’s a guide to the health insurance options in Singapore for foreigners.

 

Do foreigners need health insurance in Singapore?

After all, you’ve heard about how Singapore is safe, modern, cosmopolitan, and has a high standard of healthcare. You’ll be just fine. Why bother with health insurance?

Well, that quality healthcare is also mighty expensive. In fact, locals often joke that it’s cheaper to die than fall ill in Singapore.

First, you should understand Singapore’s healthcare system, which is split into public and private healthcare.

  • The public healthcare system is affordable for Singaporeans because they qualify for generous subsidised rates. But it also involves long waits and can sometimes a bit too basic for comfort.
  • Private healthcare, 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.

Either way, having health insurance is essential, even for locals. All Singaporeans and Permanent Residents in Singapore have government-provided basic health insurance, called MediShield Life.

About 75% of Singaporeans also have Integrated Shield plans, which are “upgrades” offering boosted coverage on top of MediShield Life. The additional coverage is provided by private insurers, but they are generally very affordable.

 

What health insurance plans can foreigners choose from?

Here are the 3 main types of health insurance plans foreigners in Singapore can choose from.

  1. Integrated Shield plans: These are plans from local insurance providers aimed at a local clientele. 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.
  2. International health insurance (local providers): Some local insurance providers offer international health insurance plans specifically for expats. These shouldn’t be confused with Integrated Shield plans, which are local policies. Make sure you clarify this with the insurer.
  3. International health insurance plans (global providers): These insurance plans are provided by insurers that are not based in Singapore, such as Cigna Global and Liberty.

Of course, there’s also your employer’s group insurance plan and your existing health insurance policy back home. However, it’s important to check the extent to which they will cover you and your dependents’ healthcare costs here in Singapore.

 

Can foreigners buy Integrated Shield plans?

Integrated Shield plans are essential components of every Singaporean’s health insurance portfolio, and they cover mainly hospitalisation-related costs.

But unbeknownst to many expats, insurance companies also sell Integrated Shield plans to foreigners. So yes, as an expat, you are eligible to buy an Integrated Shield plan so long as you have a valid visa.

Consider an Integrated Shield plan if you:

  • Are on a budget and looking for affordable health insurance
  • Don’t mind paying a deductible in cash (at least 5% of your hospital bill) when you claim
  • Don’t require health insurance coverage outside of Singapore
  • Only need hospitalisation coverage and can skip outpatient, dental, maternity etc. coverage

Below are a few Integrated Shield plans we recommend.

 

AIA HealthShield Gold Max for foreigners

AIA logo
Covers critical illnesses & COVID-19
Max. Annual Coverage Limit
S$2,000,000
Pre-Hospitalisation Benefit
100 days
Post-Hospitalisation Benefit
100 days
Apply NowApply directly on MoneySmart

AIA HealthShield Gold Max is an Integrated Shield plan we recommend for its highest-in-market medical coverage  at a surprisingly low cost.

Like all Integrated Shield plans, it comes in several tiers depending on whether you seek public or private healthcare. Foreigners should opt for the highest private healthcare tier, which is still relatively affordable. For a 35-year-old, the annual premium is $641 without rider.

You get a generous annual claim limit of $2 million a year and lengthy pre- and post-hospitalisation coverage of 13 months. However, you have to go through an AIA panel healthcare provider.

 

Great Eastern SupremeHealth for foreigners

Great Eastern logo
Covers COVID-19
Max. Annual Coverage Limit
S$1,500,000
Pre-Hospitalisation Benefit
120 days
Post-Hospitalisation Benefit
365 days
Apply NowApply directly on MoneySmart

Great Eastern SupremeHealth is one of the cheapest Integrated Shield plans on the market, costing just $596 annually for a 35-year-old.

However, its coverage isn’t as great as that of AIA: the yearly claim limit is only $1.5 million. To maximise your coverage, you should obtain a Certificate of Pre-authorisation from one of the healthcare providers on their panel, which bumps up your post-hospitalisation cover to 365 days.

There are also riders that help limit your out-of-pocket costs. Their GREAT TotalCare Plus rider covers overseas medical treatment (emergencies or otherwise), giving you the option to seek treatment closer to your friends and family back home.

 

NTUC Enhanced IncomeShield for foreigners

NTUC Income logo
Covers COVID-19
Max. Annual Coverage Limit
S$1,500,000
Pre-Hospitalisation Benefit
180 days
Post-Hospitalisation Benefit
365 days
Apply NowApply directly on MoneySmart

NTUC Enhanced IncomeShield is more expensive, at $685 annually for a 35-year-old.

One of the biggest advantages of this plan is that you enjoy unlimited claims in certain categories, including hospitalisation and surgery. However, it has shorter pre- and post-hospitalisation coverage compared to the other plans.

As with the other Integrated Shield plans, you can opt for a rider to reduce your out-of-pocket costs to at most $3,000 per policy year.

 

Pros of buying an Integrated Shield plan

Affordability: As Integrated Shield plans are meant to be used mainly in Singapore, their premiums also tend to be a whole lot cheaper than those of international health insurance. 

A 35-year-old expat can expect to pay around $600 to $700 annually for an Integrated Shield plan. You’ll have the option to add on a “rider” that covers your deductible and caps your out-of-pocket costs to $3,000 a year. With a rider, your annual health insurance premium will cost about $1,000 to $1,200.

A international health insurance plan costs at least 2 to 5 times that amount!

Enough overseas coverage: International health insurance typically offers coverage in entire regions or even the whole world. However, it’s not really necessary for most.

Meanwhile, many Integrated Shield plans will offer you some form of coverage for emergency overseas treatment, and for short trips you’ll probably have travel insurance coverage anyway.

 

Cons of buying an Integrated Shield Plan

All in all, Integrated Shield plans are a great if you’re living long-term in Singapore and are looking for an affordable, cost-effective form of medical insurance. On the other hand, please note that there are some limitations.

Hospitalisation coverage only: Integrated Shield plans also tend to be rather basic, covering bills arising from hospitalisation. They do not include outpatient treatment, dental treatment, yearly eye checkups or maternity cover. On the other hand, you have the option to add on such coverage to an international health policy.

Co-payment: Another downside of Integrated Shield plans is that there is always a co-payment portion that you can’t avoid, although you can buy a rider to try to reduce it as much as possible. That said, deductibles also apply to international health insurance plans.

Limited overseas coverage: Integrated Shield plans do let you make claims for hospitalisation costs incurred abroad, but only in emergencies and subject to limits. So, if you’re frequently absent from Singapore for long stretches or prefer to seek treatment in your home country, you’ll be better protected with international health insurance.

No dependents: Integrated Shield plans do not cover your dependents; they’ll need a plan each. International health insurance tends to be more fuss-free as you can usually get coverage for your family at the same time.

Not portable: If you plan to relocate away from Singapore, Integrated Shield plans are not portable, unlike international health insurance. Chronic expats will probably find it easier to just get an international health insurance that can be used from country to country.

 

What are the international health insurance plans available?

If you divide your time between Singapore and another country, or require more comprehensive coverage for your family, then you may want to opt for international health insurance instead.

However, do expect to pay significantly more than an Integrated Shield plan. Annual premiums range from about $2,000 to $4,000 for a no-frills international health insurance plan. It’ll cost a lot more if you opt for add-ons and to reduce the deductible to zero.

You can get personalised international health insurance quotes through MoneySmart from both local and global providers like Cigna, Liberty, FWD, AXA and MSIG.

Still on the fence? Read our reviews of the best international health insurance plans in Singapore here.

 

Local vs international health insurance in Singapore

Here’s a summary of the key differences between the local (Integrated Shield) and international health insurance options that an expat has.

Integrated Shield plan

International health 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 $1.5 to $2 million SGD

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.

 

What happens to your health insurance when you leave Singapore?

All local Integrated Shield plans 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 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. 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.

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