Here’s How Singaporeans Should Make Sure They Don’t Get Crippled by Healthcare Costs

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Every Singaporean knows the saying, “it’s cheaper to die than to get sick in Singapore”. In fact this little catchphrase is fast eclipsing “Singapore is a fine city” as our national slogan.

The fact is, the cost of healthcare has been rising like crazy. Our medical inflation rate is about 15%, more than 5 times the general inflation rate, and probably way higher than your own year-on-year salary increment.

On top of that, our population is aging rapidly, and there is already a serious manpower shortage in the healthcare industry, one that will get a lot worse once the silver tsunami hits.

This means that getting sick 20 years from now could be a lot more expensive and a lot more stressful than getting sick today, as if things weren’t already bad enough now. Here are three things all Singaporeans should do to protect themselves from the future of healthcare.

 

Understand the importance of early detection

Just in case you were in doubt, Singapore has serious problems keeping preventable diseases under control. We have the second highest proportion of diabetics in the world, as well as the world’s fourth highest rate of kidney failure. 1/9 of adults in Singapore have diabetes and a quarter have high blood pressure.

This might not sound serious to you right now, but it does mean that each one of us has a high risk of ending up with any of the above conditions. And the reason so many of these cases aren’t being caught earlier is that people are not going for screening or having their health monitored as they age.

In Singapore, the public healthcare system is very ineffective at administering good primary healthcare, which involves monitoring health over the longterm. (When people talk about how “efficient” the healthcare system is, they are mostly referring to things like benchmarking the amount spent on healthcare to the GDP.) Unfortunately, if you want to have a doctor who is able to monitor your health over the longterm, you have to be prepared to fork out private healthcare costs.

So the onus is on you to have your health monitored by regularly scheduling your own checkups, and knowing when you should be going for screenings. If the cost is too much for you, check if you qualify for a subsidy. It might also make sense to purchase a health screening package that will enable you to lump several checkups into one visit—most hospitals offer several.

Don’t wait until the last minute or until you feel something is wrong before you go for screening, either. By that time, it’ll be too late and you’re likely to end up paying much higher treatment costs.

NTUC Income now provide their own screening packages in conjunction with healthcare partners. Other insurance companies will probably follow suit, but be warned that these packages are not still not cheap, and you should compare with the prices offered directly by healthcare providers. We’ll also talk about policies that cover critical illnesses separately so follow us on Facebook to stay tuned.

 

Keep fit and watch your diet

It sounds like such trite advice—exercise and stop eating unhealthy crap every day. But nobody in Singapore seems to care, at least based on the sedentary lifestyles everyone is leading these days. Thanks to rising obesity caused by sitting in office chairs all day long, 34% of people aged between 24 to 35 in 2016 can expect to be diabetic by age 65. Yup, look at your two best friends. One of you is likely to be diabetic a few decades from now.

Most people point at the long hours they work to show they don’t have time to exercise or cook at home. Sure, you might not have control over the time you spend at the office, but you must have a tiny bit of free time. And chances are you spend this free time surfing the internet, posting on internet forums or chatting with people on WhatsApp.

Long hours at work are definitely an impediment, don’t get me wrong. But the issue is that people just place exercising and eating well very low on their list of priorities. Everything else—shopping, sending their kids to tuition classes, planning for overseas holidays and watching Korean dramas is more important.

 

Make sure you’re adequately covered by insurance

While the government has acknowledged the need to find a way to keep healthcare costs in check, I wouldn’t count on it if I were you. Even if the inflation rate is mitigated, expect your healthcare costs to rise dramatically, simply because you’ll be older.

You might already have your own medical coverage, but it’s a good idea to review your insurance plans over the years to make sure you have adequate coverage as you age.

In the early years of your career, you probably signed up for a very basic Integrated Shield Plan. But as you get older you may want to obtain more extensive coverage. You do not want to wait till you get sick to do this, since most policies will not cover you for pre-existing conditions. There is also usually an age limit, so you need to get on board before you hit reach a certain age.

All this means that you should go over your insurance policies every few years and check out what other policies there are on the market to determine if it’s time go upgrade. It sucks to think that your spending on insurance will rise with age, but without it you could be a lot worse off.

How do you plan to deal with the rising cost of healthcare as you age? Tell us in the comments!

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.