You’ve chosen a great country to reside in. Singapore is one of the world’s cleanest countries with an efficient government, great public facilities, highly educated population and an incredible infrastructure. English is the official language of commerce, but it’s common to hear Mandarin and other ethnic languages spoken in most places. Rest assured you’ll have little problem communicating with the locals and finding your way around our Garden City. Singapore’s health care system is second to none; the clean and efficient public health care facilities are world-class and the high-end medical tourism industry attracts a sizeable number of patients annually.
So as an expat you’re probably wondering why you need an international health insurance (or expat health insurance) plan when it appears that a local health plan will do nicely and cost less to boot.
Here are some thoughts…
Citizens or Foreigners
Let’s forget the high-end medical facilities with Presidential Suites and concierge services that greet you the moment you touch down and consider the public medical facilities for the common man. Cutting-edge technology, cleanliness, efficiency and great service are some words and phrases associated with Singapore’s subsidized healthcare and medical facilities, like hospitals and polyclinics (public clinics). With these, it seems unnecessary for an expat to consider an international health policy; unless of course you prefer coverage for a potential private hospital stay (local health insurance policies have restrictions on private medical facilities).
- There are different charges for Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and Foreigners. As an expat, you will need to pay the full cost of medical care in these facilities.
- There are different levels of medical care for Singaporeans, from Class A to C. Class A patients enjoy the best care, including a private hospital room and better food, while Class C patients share a room with 6 other occupants. As an expat (Foreigner), Class C medical care could cost as much as that of a private hospital, as the Singapore healthcare system, (especially Class C), it is heavily subsidized by the government.
- While the medical facilities are clean and air-conditioned for your comfort, the long waiting time for medical attention can’t be avoided. This is an opportunity cost that could well offset the extra premium you pay for an expat health insurance policy.
Coverage of local health insurance or expat health insurance policies
- Portability. Local health insurance plans provide limited coverage; usually restricted to a Singapore only. Expat health insurance policies allow you to choose from a range of options of Area of Cover (Zone) that includes global coverage.
- Most local health insurance products do not cover Out-Patient (clinic) expenses; that’s why they are known in Singapore as H&S (Hospital & Surgical) policies. Expat health insurance policies not only cover Out-Patient expenses, but also include many benefits not found in local health insurance policies. For example, “Complementary Medicine” (TCM) is included in many basic expat health insurance plans.
- Guaranteed renewability. Local H&S policies can be renewed, but not without a huge premium increase, if there’s a bad claim history. The premiums of expat health insurance policies are usually increased, not because of an individual’s bad claim history. The adjustment is made after a careful assessment of the entire insurance business as a portfolio and medical costs in general. The increase is usually marginal and unaffected by a bad claim history.
Cost of local health insurance or expat health insurance
It’s a given that local health insurance products are cheaper than expat health insurance plans, but here are some important points to consider:
- How much cheaper?
- What are the differences in coverage?
- Is it worth trading certain benefits for a lower premium?
- Is the cheaper local health insurance product providing you with the kind of coverage you really want or need?
Research indicates that the more well-off Singaporeans (those occupying mid to senior management positions) buy expat health insurance not only because of their purchasing power, but also because it includes international coverage, private hospital stays and expenses. So it does make a lot of sense as a foreigner living abroad to choose an expat health insurance plan over a local health product.
For more articles and information on Expat Health Insurance, and things to consider when choosing the right Expat Health Insurance, you can find further free information at www.expathealthinsurance.com.sg