Singapore Health Insurance - The complete guide!

How does the state health insurance system work?


Health insurance in Singapore is divided into five basic categories:

  • medical expense insurance
  • hospital cash insurance
  • critical illness insurance
  • disability income insurance
  • long-term care insurance

The Singaporean Ministry of Health and the Central Provident Fund Board (CPF) operate a compulsory programme, MediSave, in which employers must pay contributions from the salaries of citizens or permanent residents into a national health insurance savings scheme.

In addition, MediShield Life is a “catastrophic illness insurance scheme” designed to protect clients against large hospital bills. It operates via a deductible scheme, in which you must make a series of payments before being eligible to claim, but once this is in place the scheme will then make co-payments for medical treatment, reducing your out of pocket costs by 50-80%. However, there are other government-approved policies.

CareShield Life will be in place from 2020 and this is designed as a policy for long-term care, featuring payments that increase over time, with no cap on duration.

Medical insurance in Singapore operates on a reimbursement scheme and you will need to pay upfront and then put in a claim.

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Who is eligible for state healthcare?


Only citizens of Singapore and permanent residents are eligible for MediSave and other state insurance policies. If you are not a permanent resident, you will need to take out private cover.


How do you apply to join the state health insurance system?


Your employer will register you with MediShield Life if you are eligible and you will be covered from the first payment. Permanent residents will therefore be automatically covered under this scheme.

If you are an expat on a work permit or an S-Pass, your employer is legally obliged to sign you up for insurance to a minimum of S$15K per annum and can face a fine or a jail sentence if they do not do so. You may have to make a co-payment of 10% of your monthly income to cover non-work related claims.

You will then be given a national security (NRIC) card which is used in the state medical system: you will need to take this with you when you are seeking treatment.

If you are self-employed, you will need to sign up yourself. This is very easy to do: simply visit a local doctor’s surgery and tell them you wish to register. They will give you a form to fill in, and you will need to include details about your residency status on this. Once the form has been processed, you will receive state healthcare if you are eligible.


What is covered by the state health insurance system?


On a co-payment basis, MediSave and MediShield cover:

  • inpatient care including approved day surgeries
  • outpatient care (the Ministry of Health website gives a list of conditions which the policy will cover)
  • vaccinations (childhood and adult)
  • health screening
  • psychiatric treatment
  • dialysis
  • radiotherapy
  • chemotherapy
  • MRI and other scans
  • hospice and palliative care

MediSave will only cover hospital care if the patient is in hospital for more than eight hours.


Are retirees covered by state medical insurance?


If you are a retired expat you will be eligible for national medical insurance if you are a permanent resident. Your MediSave premiums will be a little higher than those of younger residents (S$755 – 1500 per annum on average).

If you are a permanent resident you will be automatically enrolled in the government’s ElderShield policy from the age of 40. You can opt out of this if you wish, but you can also opt back in again later on. Premiums will depend on your income and age bracket, as well as your gender: a 40-year-old woman, for example, would pay on average S$200 per annum for 26 years. Premiums for men are lower due to their lower life expectancy.

Aviva, Great Eastern, and NTUC Income provide ElderShield care and are government-approved.

If you are a retiree but not a permanent resident, you will need to take out private cover.


Are students covered by state medical insurance?


If you are a student who is a permanent resident, you may be eligible for a compulsory medical insurance plan run by your educational institution. Consultations will be free but you may have to make some co-payments for some treatments.

If you are an international undergraduate student, you will be able to sign up for the University Health Scheme and will be eligible for similar benefits.

Postgraduates should take out private cover, but check with your educational institution if they offer insurance cover at a reduced rate.


Will your family be covered by your insurance?


Your dependants (spouse, parents and children) will be covered by your insurance. The amount that is deducted from your salary is designated for you and any dependants.


Is dental treatment covered by state health insurance?


MediSave covers a range of dental treatments, including:

  • surgical removal of retained roots/fractured teeth
  • bone grafts
  • dental implants
  • wisdom tooth surgeries
  • sinus lifts
  • gum surgery

You can claim between S$250 to $2,850 for dental care from MediSave.

However, MediSave’s dental policy is designed for dental surgery, thus you cannot use it for:

  • tooth extractions
  • crowns
  • dental bridges
  • braces
  • non-surgical root canal treatments


What are the contribution rates for state health insurance?


Premiums depend on your income and your age bracket, but as an adult in middle age, you would be paying on average around S$300-700 per annum. It is around 8-10.5% of your annual income. However, you also have to pay an annual deductible and the system operates on a co-payment basis, so there will be some out-of-pocket costs if you need treatment.


Why buy private health insurance?


As noted above, only citizens and permanent residents are covered by the government’s various health insurance plans, so if you are an expat who is not a permanent resident, you will need to take out private cover. Many companies in Singapore already have policies set up for their employees, so check with your HR department before you look for a policy on your own.

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What is covered by private health insurance?


Private health plans will cover the full range of inpatient and outpatient care.

You will need to take out extra private cover for non-surgical dental treatment.


How much does private health insurance cost?


Private plans for individuals have been estimated at an average of S$3,227 per annum for a 45-year-old expat. Family policies will come at a higher cost.

An Integrated Shield Plan is available from some providers as a top-up scheme for MediShield.

Check whether your policy relates to onshore, rather than global, premiums.

For those seeking international private medical insurance (iPMI) cover for multiple countries including Singapore, numerous variables can have an impact on the cost.

The most important variables are:

  • age (the higher the more expensive)
  • area of cover (i.e. in addition to Singapore, which other areas is coverage required in? If those other areas include any of the US, the Caribbean, China, Hong Kong or Dubai this can significantly increase the overall price)
  • product choice (higher end insurance products are more expensive)

Other variables include:

  • deductibles
  • co-insurance
  • payment frequency
  • gender
  • nationality
  • country of residence

As so many variables have an effect on the cost of international private medical insurance in Singapore it becomes very difficult to give accurate estimates without knowing the full details of the coverage required. However, as a very rough guide, using a standard profile of a 40 year old British male with no deductibles, no co-insurance, a middle tier plan/product, all modules included and worldwide coverage excluding the US, a ballpark price of around £4,000/$5,000 might be expected. Were coverage to be expanded to include the US then the premium could increase to almost double that amount.


Which companies offer private health insurance?


The big international providers are present in the region, including:

  • AIA HealthShield GoldMax
  • Aviva MyShield
  • AXA Shield
  • Cigna Global
  • Great Eastern SupremeHealth
  • NTUC IncomeShield
  • Prudential PruShield
  • Raffles Health Insurance


Glossary of health insurance terms


CareShield Life – a policy with higher payouts that increase over time with no cap on payout duration

ElderShield - a basic long-term care insurance scheme targeted at severe disability, especially during old age

MediSave – the national health insurance scheme

MediShield Life - a “catastrophic illness insurance scheme”


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