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Breast Cancer: What insurance options do you have as an expatriate in Singapore?

Have you seen it yet? An MRT train car interior covered in pink that represents the fact that we are now in Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Some of you might sport the iconic pink ribbon to show solidarity for breast cancer sufferers, or perhaps you are wearing one as you have battled the disease, or are indeed still fighting it.

We regularly hear about how “early detection is key,” so there shouldn’t be much issue with breast cancer in Singapore now, right? Pacific Prime Singapore is sorry to say, this is simply not the case.

Many hands with the pink ribbon in the middle
The iconic pink ribbon has become the universal symbol for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The facts

All one needs to do is look at the headlines. After all, breast cancer kills a woman in Singapore every single day, and as recently as September 27th, 2016, Channel News Asia reported that only 38.9% of women in Singapore between the ages of 50 and 69 receive their bi-annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer. This is especially troubling when you consider that breast cancer is the #1 type of cancer among Singaporean women. What’s more, at age 50 the probability of women developing breast cancer is 1 in 43, and this figure jumps to 1 in 26 by age 70.

Now, many people are familiar with breast cancer thanks to decades of awareness raising, but at some point some women are still going to have to go through the ravages of this terrible disease. When this happens, they are going to want to have the best quality care available to make sure that they end up a survivor. However, not every woman is familiar with the ins and outs of the local healthcare system or insurance as it pertains to breast cancer.

Breast Cancer Awareness Week pink boxing gloves
What are the options when it comes to treatment?

Public vs Private

In Singapore, Singaporeans or those with PR status have access to the city-state’s fine public healthcare system. For women over 50 in this category, Singapore allows for the use of their, or an immediate family member’s, Medisave account for mammograms at approved centers, up to S$400 per account, per year. Approved mammography centers under Medisave are:

Alexandra HospitalKK Women’s and Children’s HospitalSingapore General Hospital
Ang Mo Kio PolyclinicMt. Alvernia HospitalTampines Polyclinic
Bukit Batok PolyclinicNational Cancer Centre SingaporeTan Tock Seng Hospital
Changi General HospitalNational University HospitalThomson Medical Centre
Choa Chu Kang PolyclinicOrchard Imaging CentreToa Payoh Polyclinic
Clementi PolyclinicPasir Ris PolyclinicWoodlands Polyclinic
Geylang PolyclinicQueenstown PolyclinicYishun Polyclinic
Hougang PolyclinicRadologic Clinic
(Health Promotion Board)
Radiologic Clinic –
Breast Imaging Centre
Jurong PolyclinicRaffles HospitalBuikit Merah Polyclinic
Khoo Teck Puat HospitalSengkang Polyclinic

Beyond detection and prevention, once an individual already has breast cancer, they can use their Medisave funds for cancer treatment in various ways. Here are some available treatments under Medisave and what the limits are on each:

TreatmentMedisave Allowance
Outpatient radiotherapy of all kinds$80-12,800 per treatment
Outpatient radiosurgery$7,500 per treatment, $300 per day hospital charge
Outpatient chemotherapy$1,200 per month

As you can see, some cancer treatments can be quite expensive, even within the confines of the public healthcare system, which is why Medisave makes allowances commensurate with the costs. This is important to note because prices for treatment in private healthcare facilities will be significantly more expensive.

High quality care for Singapore expats

Since this is the case in order to avoid paying for treatments out of pocket, it’s a good idea for expats to have a private health insurance plan, either provided by their employer or purchased individually. Insurance broker Pacific Prime Singapore, who specialises in international health insurance plans, was able to provide us with some interesting aspects of their plans that expats in Singapore should know about.

First, coverage for breast cancer treatment is for the most part ubiquitous among their plans, and all common forms of treatment are easily covered by most plans. Plans also either include, or can be extended to include mammograms and regular check-ups on a preventive basis for detection of the disease,

Next, despite common concerns that restrictions on pre-existing conditions will prevent those who have already had breast cancer from obtaining new insurance coverage, Pacific Prime wants us to know that there are health insurance plans available that will cover the condition again. Generally this coverage will come once a patient’s cancer has been in remission for a few years, though the specific amount of time may vary between insurers and plans.

Finally, with international health insurance plans, a patient has much more freedom when it comes to choosing where to go for treatment. Not only will insurance coverage be provided in all private healthcare facilities in Singapore, the patient also has the option of receiving treatment in virtually any country worldwide.

As expats, it may be preferred to travel to your home country for treatment, or even popular medical tourism spots outside of Singapore. The ability to obtain coverage abroad makes international health insurance plans a great option not only for cancer treatment, but for other healthcare as well.

Brought to you in partnership with Pacific Prime Singapore
China Square Central #09-02A, 18 Cross Street
6536 6173

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