Three crucial steps to guard your healthcare needs in Singapore

Sarao family – long term residents of Singapore

Singapore is one of the most liveable countries around the world today because it is a gateway city to commerce in Asia that offers unparalleled political and social security.  People from around Asia and the world come here to work, to live, to set up and to settle down one's family.  And it doesn't take long for one to find out that car and property ownerships, and medical expenses are relatively high.

So whether you are new in Singapore, seeking to plant yourself in this multi-cultural society for the foreseeable future, or have decided to call Singapore home for good, here are the ABCs to managing your healthcare needs here.

Ujjwal Sarao

Ujjwal Sarao, HR leader with experience of working with some of the largest MNC brands in the world, permanent resident of Singapore, advises, “Having health insurance is important for several reasons; uninsured people receive less medical care and less timely care, they have worse health outcomes and lack of insurance is a fiscal burden for them and their families. This is the reason why health insurance is the top ranked benefit amongst corporate employees”

So whether you are new in Singapore, seeking to plant yourself in this multi-cultural society for the foreseeable future, or have decided to call Singapore home for good, here are the ABCs to managing your healthcare needs here.

1. Ascertain Your Baseline Healthcare Coverage

Two things form your baseline healthcare coverage: a hospitalisation and surgical plan to take care of medical costs when admitted to a hospital for treatment or surgery, and an outpatient medical plan to take care of visits to the general practitioners or specialists that do not require hospital admission or surgery.

There are two broad categories of hospitalisation and Surgical (H&S) plans: Singapore-based or global coverage.  Depending on individual need/preference, choices would vary.  Either ways, to find a suitable plan for you and your family, consider these:

(I) Geographic coverage of plan: Are you a frequent traveller and would you be spending more than 90 days outside of Singapore annually? If yes, then a plan with a regional/global coverage may be suitable for your consideration.  Otherwise, a Singapore-based plan would suffice.
(II) Schedule of benefits: these are the items permissible for claim under a plan. See that the plan covers for the type of hospital care you want e.g. Private hospital vs government restructured hospitals.  Pre and post-hospitalisation coverage. Also outpatient claims for chemotherapy and kidney dialysis are commonly provided today.

(III) Claim limits per scheduled benefit: some plans apply a claim limit to every item of benefit in the schedule.  Ensure that the limits are sufficient e.g. room and board rate in a private hospital in Singapore is now at a rate of $350-$500 a day for a single standard ward admission. A claim limit less than $350/day would mean out of pocket expenses on your part in the event of admission.  Ideally, a plan with "as charged" claim limits would provide one with peace of mind. This ensures that

(IV) Annual claim limit: whether the plan has claim limits on the schedule of benefits or is an "as charged" plan, annual limits apply.  The widely accepted annual limit baseline to begin at is S$500,000 a year.  This can go up to S$5,000,000 for global plans.  Where you prefer to seek treatment e.g. Singapore vs Japan vs the USA, would mean different levels of medical costs. Ensure that the annual limit is sufficient for the geographic coverage you select.  

(V) Deductible and Co-insurance: this refers to the "excess" payable before an insurer is liable to admit the claim.  Deductibles could be anything from $2,000 and up, while co-insurance is typically at 10% of the medical bill after amount of deductible.  For complete peace of mind, a plan with riders to cover for deductible and co-insurance is often selected.

Outpatient medical plan on the other hand are most commonly made available to individuals through company group insurance plan. On an individual basis, outpatient coverage tends to be obtainable as an optional rider to global healthcare plans. Global plans also offer more flexibility to add on optional riders such as maternity and dental benefits.

Outpatient medical plans due to personal accidents are however easily purchasable by all.  This is most helpful for those with young children, stay-home wives and elderly parents who are without company group insurance coverage. Up-to-date plans such as AIA Solitaire or Manulife Ready Protect extend accidental cover to select medical conditions such as the Zika virus, dengue hemorrhagic fever, and hand foot and mouth disease.

2. Boost Your Income Protection/Replacement Plan

As non-Singapore citizens do not enjoy government subsidy and the full costs have to be borne by the individual, coverage through a company medical plan and/or a personal one is critical.  Yet, our greatest fear would be the loss of income due to illness or injury.
Having an income protection and/or replacement plan with guaranteed monthly benefit or lump sum payout should one be prevented temporarily or permanent to earn an income or to continue managing one's business is a must-have for sole/main income breadwinners.  This is to ensure that one's earning power and wealth accumulation cum retirement plans do not get derailed due to serious conditions during prime earning years.

3. Contact A Professional Healthcare Plan Advisor

There are in general 2 types of healthcare plan advisors in Singapore. There are those who represent a particular insurer and product offerings from the particular company, and those who represent a slate of select insurers who are able to recommend the most appropriate solutions depending on an individual's requirement.

Beyond healthcare needs, individuals may have other concerns like mortgage financing and insurance, education and retirement.

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