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Learning about the healthcare system is an important part of moving or travelling to a new country, so you can be prepared in case something happens. Thankfully, Singapore has great medical facilities and a robust public healthcare system, however many of the private hospitals and clinics can be quite expensive.

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Singapore excels in healthcare

The former Prime Minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, always considered public health to be an indispensable element for the proper development of his country and made it one of his priorities.

This 700 km2 city-state with more than 5 million inhabitants, boasts of one of the world’s most modern and secure healthcare systems, ranking 2nd in the world for healthcare outcomes in 2014 according to a report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

Today, Singapore’s healthcare system is considered as a point of reference and welcomes an average of 400,000 foreign patients per year from the region.

Healthcare in Singapore

Singapore has always been smart in making important partnerships with healthcare organisations around the world. Actually, most of Singaporean doctors are trained abroad in world-class medical facilities.

Today, Singapore has 10 public hospitals, 13 private hospitals and a handful of specialised clinics. Each facility has its own pricing and specialities, making it important to be well informed before going to seek treatment.

Public hospitals also offer emergency services which are opened 24/7.

According to the figures from the Singapore Medical Council, there are more than 900 practicing doctors in the city-state, which gives us the ratio of 18 practitioners for every 10,000 inhabitants; more than China, Thailand, Malaysia and the majority of Asian countries.

The National Health Plan

In 1984, the government set out to create a national health plan, by expanding the Central Provident Fund to cover medical expenses. Now, the bulk of Singapore’s public healthcare financing system is comprised of the 3Ms: Medisave, Medishield Life and Medifund.

Medisave is a mandatory personal healthcare fund. How does it work? Every month, each resident will contribute 8% to 10.5% of their salary which is deposited in a medical savings account. An additional contribution to the account is made by the employer. Singaporean residents can use this account in order to pay for their health expenses. However, these reimbursements are capped in order to curb over-consumption of health expenses and abuse of the system.

Unlike Medisave, Medishield Life is a voluntary health insurance scheme that takes care of more expensive health care costs due to serious illnesses, or major surgeries which Medisave wouldn't be able to cover. However, it does not fully cover all expenses as it carries with it both a yearly deductible and co-insurance. On the upside, Singaporeans can use their Medisave account to pay their Medishield Life premiums.

And finally there is Medifund, which is an endowment fund set up in 1993 that acts as a social safety net for the needy. The fund uses the interest it generates to help pay for the medical expenses of Singaporeans who face difficulties covering the costs of their care.

There are also a number of other programs targeted at various demographics such as children or the elderly, as well as government subsidies for other aspects of Singapore’s public healthcare system.

It is important to note that these public schemes are only available to Singaporean citizens and foreign nationals who have gained permanent residency.

Health Insurance for Foreigners in Singapore

For any expatriate, unless you're already a permanent resident in Singapore, you won't be able to benefit from the 3Ms or any of the government subsidies in the public health system. So if you’re employed in Singapore then you will need to go shopping for your own private medical insurance, unless your employer provides it as part of a benefits package.

Given how expensive private hospitals and even higher quality public hospital wards can be, an international health insurance plan may be your best option as they come with greater benefits and coverage, ensuring that any medical expenses don’t leave you out of pocket.

APRIL International offers MyHEALTH, a flexible health insurance plan that combines the comprehensive benefits of an international health plan, with the local resources and extensive network of an onshore medical insurance plan.

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