The number of expatriates living in Singapore has gone up over the years as government strategies to attract overseas talent have taken effect. There are more than 110,000 expats living and over 7,000 international companies operating in Singapore at the momentins.
Many foreigners obviously find the living and working conditions of Singapore attractive. But, unfortunately, they are not eligible to receive many of the benefits that Singapore citizens and permanent residents get. One of them is health insurance.
Singaporeans and permanent residents are eligible for MediShield Life that provides a rudimentary coverage of healthcare requirements. The only healthcare subsidy available to expats is to cover emergency medical needs.
This leaves foreigners with the option of either depending on the insurance coverage that an employer may provide or on insurance policies from private companies. Quite often, employer-provided healthcare insurance is rather basic, limited to refunds on fees to the doctor and hospitalisation charges. If you are critically ill or in need of a surgery, this form of insurance may not provide the required coverage.
Expats typically have two options for a better health insurance. The first is an international health insurance and the second is a local integrated plan. Read on to know more and decide which would suit your requirements best.
International Health Insurance Policies for Expats
If you decide to go for an international health insurance policy, there are two options ahead of you. A product from global health insurance companies like Aetna, Pacific Prime, and Bupa or one from Singaporean insurance firms such as AIA, Great Eastern or NTUC Income that provide international health insurance.
There are certain key features that make an international health insurance special. Prominent among them is the yearly coverage limit. An international health insurance plan has an annual limit that can run up to about US$2 to 3 million. They often cover pre-and post-hospitalisation costs, along with services of a specialist medical practitioner and outpatient visits to a general physician as add-ons.
With an international health insurance plan, you will probably never have to worry about having to pay for your treatment in the hope of claiming refunds later. This is because, with such a policy, your hospital bills are settled directly.
There are certain other advantages in terms of the coverage as well. For instance, an international health insurance policy covers a broad range of pregnancy-related complications. There may also be an option to choose a cover for regular maternity-related charges. When a child is born, the coverage can be extended to him or her without underwriting if some conditions are fulfilled.
International health insurance policies often provide other add-on options too. This may include coverage for dental care, wellness, and ophthalmology-related costs. Most significantly, all these options will be available anywhere in the world. So if you move from Singapore to another country, you can make medical claims there also.
Such an extensive range of benefits might make you think an international health insurance is your best option. But wait till you hear about the costs. Naturally, a policy that offers so much would not come cheap. An international health insurance policy that provides most of the above-mentioned benefits worldwide could set a 30-year-old man back by thousands of US dollars.
Finally, do note that an international health insurance policy is different from a travel insurance policy. While both offer medical benefits, their terms and conditions are different.
Local Health Insurance Plans for Expats
If you feel that the costs of international health insurance are too much for you and that you don’t really need coverage across the globe, a local insurance policy could be considered. These health insurance policies are often known as integrated shield plans (ISP). Note that you need to have at least a Singapore Work Permit to be eligible for this.
Integrated Shield Plans often refer to the upgrade option that Singaporeans and permanent residents have to get additional benefits over their MediShield scheme. Several major insurance companies like AXA and AIA provide them. For expats, some of these companies provide a foreigner-edition policy.
The most obvious benefit of this path is the lower cost. The annual premium of an integrated shield plan may be as low as S$1,000. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. This begins with the coverage being limited to Singapore alone, except in case of emergencies.
The annual limit would be over half a million Singapore dollars. There are limitations on the number of instances of outpatient services covered. Direct bill settlement is also limited to a low sum, with most of the benefits being offered on a refund basis.
Options are limited when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth as well. Only a few pregnancy-related complications receive coverage and a child born has to be underwritten to become eligible for coverage. There is close-to-no coverage for wellness, dental, or eyesight-related issues.
Which is the best option for an expat?
There is no doubt that in terms of the benefits, international health insurance policies win hands down. Their coverage is comprehensive, including almost everything from dental to several pregnancy-related complications. You will not have to worry about raising funds to pay the bills upfront and receive compensation later. To top it all, benefitsk are available wherever you go.
However, if the cost of premiums is a concern for you, a local ISP would be your best bet. You should note that over and beyond the annual cost of international insurance policies, there are chances of premium rates being hiked once or twice a year. Premiums for a local insurance policy are adjusted only once every few years. Remember that such costs are beside any increase in premium rates due to the policyholder aging.
Your decision may also depend on the country you belong to and the kind of healthcare service you are used to. For instance, countries like the UK provide free medical services to all citizens for almost every kind of health issue. If you would prefer such an option wherever you go, an international plan is a must.
Certain specific situations may also become a major factor in your decision. For instance, if you plan to have a child while abroad, you should consider all maternity-related benefits that your health insurance provides.