Singapore: excellence comes at a price
Singapore has an exemplary quality of healthcare, whether in the public or private sector – however, the cost of healthcare will match that level of excellence. Whatever your status, health insurance will be essential. In Singapore, an expatriate policy will cover all your needs, beyond just hospitalization costs, with benefits and reimbursements tailored to the country.
|Healthcare expenditure per capita and per year||€3 425,89|
|Annual indexation of health expenses||9,3%|
|Hospitalization reimbursement rate with the Fund for French Abroad||31%|
|Number of insurance companies available||15|
|Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 30-year-old||€1 146|
|Annual cost of hospitalization coverage for a 50-year-old||€1 881|
Ranked among the best healthcare systems in the world, Singapore has an excellent reputation for both its healthcare facilities and its English-speaking specialists.
100% of the population has access to healthcare, but this coverage is not free. The country has long relied on responsible consumption of healthcare, by financially involving the insured through systems of contributions, deductibles, co-insurance, and co-payments.
A local joke is that it’s cheaper to die than to get sick in Singapore. While there is universal healthcare coverage, it is exclusively for citizens and permanent residents, and only the poorest can benefit from free care through MediFund.
Non-permanent resident expatriates, the self-employed, and unemployed spouses are not covered and can expect high rates.
Please note: If you’re eligible for the local health system, MediShiel Life (and MediSave), only hospitalization and certain health expenses (dialysis, cancer, transplants) are covered. For dental, maternity, physician, or pharmacy expenses, you will need complementary insurance (International, Integrated Shield Plan, Riders) to get reimbursed.
There are no specific health risks in Singapore, except that dengue fever is endemic. Regular mosquito prevention and eradication campaigns (notably by fumigation) are carried out throughout the city; residents are asked to empty all stagnant water sources to avoid proliferation (beware the fine for any offender). The classic anti-mosquito protections will be sufficient.
Furthermore, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to what you eat, as well as to the temperature variations between outside and public places/transportation. It’s common for air-conditioned buildings to be set to 16 °C (61 °F), while it is 30 °C (86 °F) outside with 80% humidity. Bring a light scarf or small vest.
It is also recommended that you get or update certain vaccinations, depending on your age and health. For example, tetanus (DTP) and measles (MMR), which have become significant again in recent years. The tuberculosis vaccine is also recommended.
Considering the price of healthcare in the country, we recommend that you get a check-up before leaving, especially for dental and vision care.
There are nine private hospitals and 14 public hospitals. The rates vary according to three parameters: the location, the type of room, and your status (resident or non-resident).
In the public system, the quality of care is very good, equivalent to that of the private sector, but it is limited to the most serious risks: emergencies and hospitalization.
In addition, accommodations are not necessarily up to Western standards. Eight-bed dormitories (class C) still exist in many hospitals, while for-to-five beds in a room is the norm.
Finally, you will have access to subsidized rates only if you are a permanent resident, a beneficiary of MediShield Life. In all other cases, you have to use the private system, or you will pay the higher expat rates.
Private care is recognized to be among the best in Asia (along with Hong Kong), and many wealthy Asians do not hesitate to come to Singapore to find care that they cannot find elsewhere.
Prices are very high, though, regardless of your status. Almost 75% of MediShield Life members have an Integrated Shield Plan to supplement their basic coverage. Health insurance is essential.
You are free to choose your physician. Keep in mind that your status, the location, and the physician’s level of qualification will determine the consultation fees.
For example, a senior consultant at the Skin Center will charge between 123 and 141 SGD, while a regular consultant will charge 112 to 129 SGD, and an associate 100 to 115 SGD.
Contact your embassy for list of recommended physicians, or consular services or expatriate support services and groups. Some of them may speak your language.
Almost all expatriate insurers also offer access to a teleconsultation platform for basic health issues as well as second medical opinions.
With the exception of some "luxury" health centers where a consultation can cost more than 400 SGD, consultations are generally affordable, with rates ranging from around 48 SGD for a general practitioner in a public hospital to 74 SGD or more in the private sector. The bill will also usually include basic medication, provided by the physician.
For a specialist, consultations will cost on average between 79 and 146 SGD, but can be much more. "Luxury" medicine is a real niche market in Singapore, given the high-end medical tourism that exists there, but you don’t need it to get excellent treatment.
However, things get more complicated when it comes to examinations, more complex treatments, or hospitalization – especially for expatriates who don’t have permanent resident status or benefit from government-subsidized rates. Prices are then unrestricted and can go sky high. A high-end expatriate health insurance is thus essential.
Here is an idea of the rates charged at Raffles Hospital, a high-end establishment: one day of hospitalization in a private room (Class A room) costs 668 SGD, a suite will cost between 919 SDG and 5,888 SDG. At Changi Hospital, which houses the Medical Center for Travelers, a private room (A) will cost 480 SGD per day (930 SGD in intensive care), while a five-bed room (B) will cost from 83 to 295 SGD (or from 218 to 930 SGD in intensive care). Finally, at Mount Elisabeth Hospital, recommended by the French Embassy: 728 SGD for a single room, 340 SGD for a semi-private room (two beds), or 276 SGD for a four-bed room. You can also get a private suite starting at 1,238 SGD, depending on your financial situation.
Regarding dental expenses, the price of a crown replacement can vary between 600 and 1,100 SGD on average. An implant with a crown will cost between 3,100 and 5,300 SGD, depending on the location and the physician chosen. Removal of a wisdom tooth will cost 535 SGD at Q&M Hospital. Carefully consider your needs before opting for vision/dental coverage. If you simply have one check-up a year and don’t wear glasses, these benefits are not for you.
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Singapore's healthcare system is organized around a so-called "3M" system for Medishield Life, MediSave, Medifund, and private insurance providers, which can be quite complex for expatriates to understand. Moreover, this compulsory system only covers Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (with a permanent visa, a work permit, or an Employer Spass).
In 2015, this system replaced the Medishield system that had been in place since 1990. Medishield was an optional public service that could exclude certain preexisting conditions and ended at age 90. Medishield Life is mandatory, does not exclude any existing conditions (but applies a 30% rate increase for the first 10 years when there are long-term health conditions) and is lifelong.
Like the old system, it aims to finance the most expensive healthcare costs: hospitalization and certain specific expenses (cancer, dialysis, transplants, psychiatry). It does not cover routine (outpatient) medical expenses, nor does it cover vision, dental, or pregnancy and childbirth care.
The insured pay a contribution according to their income bracket and age plus a deductible (from 1000 SGD to 3000 SGD per person), a co-insurance (from 3% to 10%), and co-payments (a fixed amount). Surcharges are also systematically out of pocket. The coverage limit is fixed at 100,000 SGD per year per person. This "participatory" system aims to make the insured more responsible, as they have to pay more if they want more services.
It’s important to note that the level of subsidy still depends on your income level. So even if you are hospitalized in a "Class C" shared room with several people, a patient with a modest income will have 80% of their stay subsidized, while a high-income patient will only receive 65% reimbursement.
To supplement the basic MediShield Life coverage, the insured are given an individual savings account financed by the mandatory contributions deducted from their salaries (8% to 10%), which is called MediSave. These funds are managed by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) and are used to cover out-of-pocket expenses and deductibles for healthcare costs covered by MediShield Life, for the insured person and their family members. Please note that this does not cover routine medical expenses either, but includes expenses related to hospitalization, maternity (complications/fertility), chronic illnesses, rehabilitative care, and palliative care. There is a direct-payment service for these bills.
The combination of MediShield Life and MediSave will cover seven out of ten bills, with no out-of-pocket costs. For the remaining 30% of bills, only 1/3 would require a co-payment of 100 to 500 SGD .
Founded in 1993, this fund helps to cover all outstanding medical payments in the public sector, after all MediShield Life and MediSave subsidies are deducted. It’s exclusively for the poorest of the poor and does not apply to private sector healthcare costs under any circumstances.
Local private insurance can manage both your Medishield Life and MediSave coverage – these are the Integrated Shield Plans. They are usually taken out by employers, but can also be taken out privately, including by non-permanent resident expatriates.
They work like private insurance. More than 75% of Singaporeans are covered by these plans, but many associations criticize them for the lack of transparency in their benefits and the high volatility of their premiums. Moreover, benefits are limited (with deductibles, etc.) for hospitalization and for expensive medical expenses, with a coverage area limited to Singapore.
Some individuals use "riders," which provide coverage in the private sector for up to 95% of hospitalization costs. Hospitalization-related medical expenses are generally covered for 100 days before and after hospitalization. For example, an AIA policy for a 35-year-old policy holder costs ,000 per year for a zero-deductible plan.
Some policies may offer medical, maternity, vision, and dental coverage. It’s important to ask about the conditions of coverage and the annual limits.
A well-designed expatriate health insurance can be easier to use for a foreigner. It can cover "forgotten" benefits of local contracts (routine medicine, maternity, vision/dental), and be even more competitively priced.
All EU and Swiss residents are eligible for this coverage. The CFE will cover part of your health expenses in Singapore, based on the reimbursement rate for “zone 4.”
For hospitalization, it will cover 31% of the bill, 45% for pharmacy bills, or 20% for blood tests. For a physician's consultation, it will reimburse the fixed sum of €17.50. The CFE will not be sufficient to ensure that you are properly covered in case of an emergency in a country where healthcare costs are high. A complementary insurance is essential.
Calculated according to your age (and if you are solo or part of a couple seeking insurance), the CFE contribution allows members to be covered without a health questionnaire and without an age limit.
Many expatriates prefer full-coverage private insurance (international or local). Expatriate insurers will offer you plans with or without CFE coverage. Ask our experts for advice.
Local insurance or international insurance?
If you aren’t a permanent resident, expatriate health insurance is absolutely necessary, as you cannot benefit from the public system. This insurance will prevent you from reconsidering your expatriation at the slightest health problem, and above all it will be essential for you to have access to emergency care. Without it, you won’t be able to access hospitals or clinics, unless you can immediately provide a bank guarantee that shows you’re capable of paying for the care.
If you’re a permanent resident: Expat health insurance will allow you to freely access private hospitals or A-B1 Class services in public hospitals. It will also cover your routine medical, maternity, and dental expenses, also during your stays abroad, and offer you assistance and repatriation services. It’s therefore necessary, enabling you to take care of yourself and benefit from quality care.
All the expatriate health-insurance plans for Singapore offered on our website include 100% hospitalization coverage. If you have a tight budget, choose a plan with hospitalization and repatriation assistance only.
If you have a more comfortable budget, choose a plan that includes routine medical care with some additional benefits. Plans with 10% or 20% deductibles will offer decent coverage will letting you save on premiums.
If you are planning a pregnancy, remember to check if this coverage is included in your plan.
You don’t necessarily need dental and vision coverage, as they are generally quite expensive; you should assess your real needs.
As Singapore is classified as an expensive area, do not hesitate to include a deductible in your plan to lower your contribution. You can talk to an adviser about this.
Not if you are a MediShield Life and MediSave member – then you are directly covered by these plans. However, you will still have to pay deductibles, co-insurance, co-pays, and any additional fees.
For all expenses not covered by the "3M," you will have to pay up front and ask for reimbursement.
With expatriate health insurance, if you are hospitalized for more than 24 hours, the insurer will arrange for direct payment to the hospital/clinic. Routine medical and vision/dental expenses must be paid up front.
Requests for reimbursement are easily done online (no more snail mail). Insurers also offer online customer services and mobile applications to help you manage your reimbursements.
In general, invoices of up to €1,000 can be sent digitally. Invoices over €1,000 (rare) will still need to be sent by postal mail.
Signing up for expatriate health insurance is more complex than for a classic health insurance, so it’s a good idea to apply about 30 days before your departure or desired date of effectiveness.
It is possible to subscribe to expatriate health insurance from Singapore. However, we advise you to do it before leaving, to benefit from the coverage as soon as you arrive and from an optimal choice of plans.
Our website will help you get online quotes and compare coverage options.
An adviser can then help you with the entire sign-up process.
The quality of local care means that there is little risk that you will have to be repatriated for health reasons. However, assistance can be provided abroad in the event of an accident or illness that occurs during a trip.
This also includes “extra” services that you will deeply appreciate when things go wrong, including travel expenses for a relative to come to your bedside, organizing the care or transfer of children, medical advice and guidance, etc.
Third-party liability insurance is not mandatory in Singapore. It is sometimes included in your home insurance. It’s also an option that can be offered by your expatriate health insurance provider.
It covers all material and immaterial damages that you, or a family member, could cause to a third party.
If you become disabled or need to stop working, neither the local nor the French social-welfare system will pay your income.
It is essential that you take out private insurance or one of the CFE options to ensure you’re covered (unless a contingency plan is provided by your company).
Unless you have a status that requires your employer to make contributions to a pension fund, a funded pension plan will be mandatory.
Here again, coverage is non-existent and you must arrange your own coverage to protect your spouse and children.
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