There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to health insurance – you’ll need to look at your needs, budget and future plans to figure out what works best. When choosing medical insurance for you and your family, the first choice you need to make is whether you want a local or international health insurance plan. But how do you decide? Pacific Prime tells us the differences between them so we can make an informed choice.
Health insurance in Singapore
Singaporeans and PRs are automatically signed up for MediShield Life, a basic health insurance plan by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board. An Integrated Shield Plan can be added on to it for extended coverage. Foreigners do not have access to public healthcare subsidies so they’ll need to get private cover.
#1 Coverage beyond Singapore
It goes without saying that local health insurance plans are exclusive to Singapore while international health insurance plans offer coverage outside of Singapore. That said, there are some local plans that include cover for medical emergencies while on short overseas trips. But this coverage is usually very limited.
Note that there are different types of international plans: there are those offering worldwide coverage, some that exclude the US (though most still include emergency cover) and others that only cover Asia. So read your policy details thoroughly before committing and ensure that you’ve selected adequate coverage.
#2 Policy coverage
International health insurance plans tend to be more comprehensive in their coverage. They come with benefits such as outpatient, specialist, dental and maternity coverage. They also typically include emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage, as well as allowing add-ons for specialist or GP visits. Almost all local health insurance plans do not include international medical evacuation. They may cover outpatient treatments before and after hospital stays, but they don’t cover treatments that aren’t directly related to them.
For international plans, you can also go to any hospital or medical facility without worrying that your insurer will reject your claim. Local plans typically have more restrictive networks, with selected hospitals or clinics that will accept your claim in full. As for pre-existing conditions, local plans also offer limited cover (or sometimes none at all).
#3 Policy premiums
Another key difference between local and international health insurance plans in Singapore is the premium you pay. Local plans tend to have cheaper and more affordable premiums compared to international ones.
If you have a tight budget and rarely leave the country, a local plan might be sufficient for you. But if you’re constantly on the move, an international plan will work best.
#4 Annual limits
It’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in Singapore is high. Surgery for appendicitis, for example, along with an overnight stay in a private medical centre, will cost at least $10,000. Treatment for this particular condition in a public hospital is lower, at about $5,000. However, medical costs can quickly add up, so it’s important to think about how much your insurance plan can cover in a policy year.
Local insurance plans usually have an annual limit between $600,000 to $1.2 million. In comparison, international insurance plans often have a higher limit of $1 million and above.
Local policies need to be terminated once you’re no longer living in Singapore. But you can take an international health insurance plan with you if you need to leave Singapore to go back home or to another expat posting. You can also avoid waiting periods and underwriting for add-ons as well as the issue of pre-existing conditions (these will be taken into account if you sign up for a new policy in your new country).
#6 Making claims
International health insurance plans are also a popular choice as the insurer will typically settle the bill directly with your healthcare provider. Some plans even offer a cashless option for outpatient treatments.
Choosing a plan
Both local and international health insurance plans come with their own unique benefits. What is more suitable will depend on your needs and how much you’re willing to pay. There is also the option of choosing different coverages for different members of the family. Insurance policies differ across insurance providers so it’s advisable to consult an insurance broker before making your choice.
Pacific Prime is an international health insurance broker that specialises in helping you find the most suitable health insurance for you and your family, including individual health insurance and senior citizen health insurance. Contact the team for advice or visit their website to get a free quote.