It’s relatively easy to keep your health insurance costs down in a country like Singapore, mostly because of the government’s medical subsidies. Every working citizen and permanent resident is automatically enrolled into a mandatory savings system, through which funds are deposited directly from pay cheques into savings accounts, which are specifically reserved for the purpose of paying medical expenses. Supplemental health insurance is therefore advisable, but not a necessity.You should check whether your employer offers a health insurance package, as this could save you a fair chunk of money. You will need to clarify the intricacies of the policy, such as what exactly is covered, how much is covered, and who is covered. If your dependants are not mentioned in the policy, for example, then you may have to purchase either add-ons or separate policies entirely, to ensure your family has adequate health cover.
Health insurance in Singapore: the basics
Before jumping into health insurance plans and savings, it’s probably best to quickly familiarise yourself with the basic mandatory plans that are in place in Singapore.
The basic health insurance that all workers pay into, which can be used for public hospital expenses, is called MediShield. MediShield is mandatory, and the money is taken directly from your monthly paycheck. You can further boost this with an optional integrated plan, usually referred to as MediShield IP. Integrated plans offer extended cover, and also allow you access to better wards in public hospitals, or, in some cases, treatment in private hospitals. The integrated plans typically work on a co-pay rider basis, where you pay up to 5% of the medical costs and, if covered, the insurer pays the rest.
Keeping insurance costs down
So what can you do to bring your health insurance costs down? There are a few things you can tweak that may make you better off in terms of insurance plan payments.
Perhaps the most obvious way to keep your health insurance costs down in Singapore is to opt for treatment in public hospitals. Public hospitals are regulated and subsidised by the government, so the rates are fixed, and much lower than in private hospitals, who can set their own prices.
Insurance policy comparisons and aggregators
Value Champion is an incredibly helpful resource for deciding on your health insurance plan. You can visit the website here.
The Value Champion website advises you on which policy is right for you, depending on whether you want the cheapest insurance policy, the best value for money, the best option for families, or the best option for chronic illnesses.
Using an insurance aggregator, such as Insurance Market Singapore, is also a helpful way to find the least expensive policy.
Purchasing a local insurance policy is going to cost you less than an international policy. You only really need to consider paying for an international policy if you work away and travel a lot.
Lower your premiums
Almost every health insurance policy has various premiums, essentially meaning you will pay more for your policy if you have certain health conditions or meet certain criteria. Whilst you may be tempted to not mention pre-existing medical conditions, this is an extremely bad idea, as it can render your policy null and void later on. What you can do is lower your premiums by improving your criteria. For example, you could give up smoking. Smokers can end up being charged up to 50% more than non-smokers for the same policy by many policy providers.
Increase your deductible
Generally speaking, with most insurance policies, the greater the expenses you pay out of pocket, the lower your premiums. Pairing a high-deductible supplemental insurance with a health savings account (which is mandatory in Singapore anyway), then paying the expenses from said savings account or out of pocket, can reduce your private insurance premiums. However, his approach only works in certain circumstances. You will need to sit down and crunch the numbers to see whether increasing your deductibles would save you money on your chosen policy or not. For example, the higher your insurance costs, the more you will save by increasing your deductible, because the discount for a higher deductible is usually a percentage. Comparatively, it might not be worth implementing this approach on an already low cost policy, as the savings would be minimal. You also need to be financially sound enough to be able to pay the higher deductible.
Change your co-insurance/co-payment ratio
This is basically the amount you pay, and the amount your insurance pays. As mentioned earlier, the MediShield integrated plan add-on requires you to pay up to 5% of costs, and then the insurance covers the rest. If you are looking at purchasing further private health insurance, but looking to keep the costs relatively low in terms of monthly payments, then you can see whether changing the co-payment ratio affects your monthly payment cost. If it is not immediately clear, speak to a member of customer services to see how they can help.
Choose an in-network doctor
You may find that some policy providers offer a discounted price compared to the larger corporations, under the caveat that you must use their in-network doctors and facilities, as stipulated in the policy underwriting. More often than not, these types of policies are provided by medical groups that are co-owned by a group of doctors. Be sure to research the provider’s medical network, before agreeing to anything. If you are picky about doctors, then this probably isn’t the sort of policy that you should be looking at.
Regularly reassess your health insurance requirements
Sticking with the same plan year in and year out can sometimes stop you from finding opportunities to save money. You should regularly assess your health insurance needs and whether your current plan is best suited to them. For example, some factors to regularly assess are: whether you have children, whether your children often need to see a doctor, whether you or anyone in your family requires prescription drugs, and so on.