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How is health insurance in Singapore different from the UK, USA and Australia?

For expats planning a move to Singapore, settling into new jobs and schools, looking for a comfortable home, getting used to the city and simply finding the best grocery store all are challenges. Amid this chaos, some fresh-off-the-boat expats soon realise they’ve completely overlooked an important element: their own health, and particularly their health insurance. So, to take a little stress out of the move before you go, here is a quick overview of Singapore’s health insurance system, along with those of the USA, Australia and the UK, to help you compare the facts and work out what’s what. 

Moving to Singapore is fabulous, but can be complicated along the way 

Singapore’s Health Universal Insurance System
In just a few words, Singapore’s health insurance system is the envy of most developed nations. It’s affordable for everyone enrolled, thanks to mandatory contributions by all workers, and provides universal guaranteed coverage for all Singaporean citizens and permanent residents through the country’s public healthcare outlets. Expats should be aware, however, that it does not provide any coverage for non-qualified individuals (even though all expats must still contribute to the system through salary taxes) and all medical treatment for expats must be paid for in cash.

Alternatively, everyone in Singapore is permitted to purchase their own comprehensive health insurance coverage from a private insurer – which is what most expats do. This can be part of an employee’s benefit package or purchased directly from the insurer. Either way, private medical insurance will suffice for the mandate that requires all long-term temporary residents to carry health insurance, even though it is not available to them via the national healthcare plan.

America’s Health National Insurance System
Still trying to get its bearings for the rough waters it was born onto, the Affordable Care Act (better known to most as ObamaCare) guarantees – and requires – every American to have comprehensive health insurance from one of the many plans approved by the federal government. Plans are provided either directly through the government, such as for impoverished, veterans, elderly, and the disabled, or privately through third-party providers for the remainder of citizens. Anyone who chooses to go uninsured must face an annual fine based on his or her income.

The UK’s Universal Health Insurance Solution
There is no single UK universal health insurance system. England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland each operate their own individual systems; yet ensure reciprocity within the four respective territories. All four systems guarantee the insured full access to any public healthcare facility within the UK, and the government that issued the coverage absorbs the cost. Further, UK citizens are free to purchase their own private insurance policy as stand-alone or supplemental coverage.

Australia’s Universal Health Insurance Policy
Australia provides citizens with government-subsidized healthcare via taxation funding. All workers pay a percentage of their earnings and in exchange everyone is entitled to doctor and specialist care, along with all necessary hospitalization and outpatient treatments. Depending on the individual’s age and earnings, subsidy percentages will vary. Additionally, each state has particular bylaws dictating services that anyone is entitled to free of charge, usually only limited to emergency care. Finally, Australians are allowed (and strongly encouraged) to purchase additional private health insurance policies for major medical emergencies. This covers co-payments for large medical bills or for treatments that are excluded.

As you can see, anyone moving from Australia, the UK and, to a lesser extent, the US may be used to having access to universal healthcare, which will change when you hit Singapore. And while you won’t have the same access in Singapore, there are still affordable insurance options available for expatriates and their families. For more information on how to do get started and find the best policy for you, feel free to contact a local insurance advisor like those at Pacific Prime Singapore.