“It’s cheaper to die than to fall sick in Singapore”, goes the now-popular saying. In actual fact, Singapore’s medical system is world-class and systems are in place to make healthcare affordable. However, there are still some medical procedures that are more expensive when compared to other countries.
That’s why Singaporeans are now flocking to neighbouring countries for overseas medical procedures at a lower price than what they’d pay locally.
Whether you’re hopping across the Causeway to JB to get your teeth scaled and polished, or venturing further afield to Bangkok and beyond, heading overseas for medical and dental procedures can ultimately save you quite a bit of money.
Here are some medical procedures Singaporeans are heading overseas for.
1. Dental work
Major dental procedures such as root canals and extraction of wisdom teeth can cost a bomb in Singapore. It’s not uncommon to have to pay a three figure sum per tooth to get your wisdom teeth extracted, while root canals can cost over a thousand dollars as well.
Even if there’s nothing wrong with your teeth, you’re still advised to go for regular cleaning sessions. Scaling and polishing can easily cost close to or more than $100 at private clinics. However you look at it, getting good and regular dental care can be expensive.
That’s why more and more Singaporeans are heading to dentists in Johor Bahru. There are many dentists located less than ten minutes’ drive from the Causeway. Dental procedures in JB tend to be about half the price of what private dental clinics in Singapore charge.
Because dental procedures aren’t long or expensive enough to warrant an overseas flight, the standard of dental care in JB is quite high and many doctors speak the same languages that are spoken in Singapore, Singaporeans rarely go further than JB for their dental procedures.
Here are the typical prices of popular dental procedures in Johor Bahru:
- Scaling and polishing: 120 MYR (40 SGD) to 180 MYR (59 SGD)
- Root canal: 600 MYR (196 SGD) to 1,700 MYR (556 SGD) per tooth, 1,000 MYR (327 SGD) to 1,500 MYR (490 SGD) per crown
2. Plastic surgery
Unless you’re an influencer who’s being paid to advertise for a local plastic surgeon, most plastic surgery patients in Singapore prefer to keep their procedures hush-hush. Going overseas for plastic surgery provides greater privacy than doing it locally, as you don’t risk running into your friends and relatives on the streets when you’re still recovering.
What’s more, plastic surgery capitals like Seoul and Bangkok tend to be trendsetters in the plastic surgery field. Being in a city like Seoul where you are surrounded by scores of happy plastic surgery customers is reassuring. And hey, at least you know your surgeon will understand if you say you want a V-shaped face or fake dimples.
And of course, there’s the cost factor. Plastic surgeons in most other Asian countries charge less than Singaporean ones, whether because the cost of medical care there is simply lower or because, as in the case of Seoul, the number of surgeons is so high that prices are kept competitive.
Here are the most popular destinations for Singaporeans seeking plastic surgery:
- Eyelid surgery: 1,200 to 2,500 won
- Flight to Seoul: 800 SGD
- Accommodation in Seoul for a week: 700 SGD
- Breast augmentation: 100,000 THB (4,500 SGD) to 200,000 THB (9,000 SGD)
- Flight to Bangkok: 250 SGD
- Accommodation in Bangkok for a week: 350 SGD
3. Doing IVF, egg freezing or getting egg donors
In Singapore, the age limit of 45 for IVF can be a stumbling block for many women. In addition, while younger women aged under 40 receive generous subsidies, the cost for older women can be as high as $10,000 to $15,000 per IVF cycle.
While the government recently announced they were going to lift the age limit for IVF treatment and introduce new subsidies, many women have already taken matters into their own hands by heading overseas for IVF treatment.
When it comes to egg freezing, only women with medical needs such as those who are about to undergo chemotherapy are allowed to freeze their eggs in Singapore. So, most women’s only option would be to head overseas.
Egg donation is not common in Singapore and willing egg donors here cannot collect payment, so women who are searching for egg donors usually turn to Western countries like the US where egg donation is more common, or Malaysia, which has more resources for egg donation and where it is cheaper.
JB tends to be the top choice for IVF treatment as it’s nearby, which makes it easier to go for multiple cycles and follow up appointments. For egg freezing, the most popular destinations tend to be in Malaysia, Thailand and Australia.
Here are the most popular destinations and how much a procedure costs there:
- 15,300 MYR (5,000 SGD) to 21,000 MYR (6,900 SGD) per IVF cycle
- 15,000 (4,900 SGD) MYR (6,500 SGD) to 25,000 MYR (8,200 SGD) for one cycling of egg freezing
- 45,000 MYR (14,700 SGD) for egg donation and subsequent IVF procedure
- One cycle of egg freezing: 45,000 THB (2,000 SGD)
- Flight to Bangkok: 250 SGD
- 3 weeks’ accommodation: 1,000 SGD
- One cycle of egg freezing: 11,300 AUD (10,200 SGD)
- Flight to Melbourne or Sydney: 1,000 SGD
- 3 weeks’ accommodation: 3,000 SGD
- Payment to egg donor: 10,000 USD (13,700 SGD) to 50,000 USD (68,500 SGD)
- Flight: 2,000 SGD
- Accommodation for 1 week: $1,400
4. Sex change
You might not have guessed, but Singapore used to be a sex change hub. Times have changed, mainly because it’s now so expensive. Public hospitals no longer offer sex change surgery, and you can be pretty sure your Integrated Shield Plan isn’t going to pay for your sex change at a private hospital.
Bangkok is understandably one of the most popular destinations, as Thailand is probably the world’s most accepting country for transgender and transsexual people, and there is no shortage of doctors who are able to perform sex change surgery at an affordable price. Patients might also need to stay at the hospital for at least a week, and Thailand is one of the more affordable places to do so.
Here’s the breakdown of costs for a sex change in Bangkok:
- Full sex change: 450,000 THB (20,000 SGD)
- Flight: 250 SGD
- 3 weeks’ accommodation: 1,000 SGD
Does travel insurance cover medical tourism?
Most travel insurance policies are designed to cover medical costs only in the event of an illness or emergency. Planned medical treatment or medical tourism are typically not covered.
There’s nothing much you can do about this except to save up for your treatment before heading overseas for it. Despite not being able to make a travel insurance claim, you’ll probably still be saving a significant amount of money by opting to seek treatment overseas.
Have you ever had a medical procedure done overseas? Share your stories in the comments!