How does Singapore's healthcare system work?
Many people think that Singapore has one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Many countries look up to it because it achieves outstanding outcomes. The government hospitals offer cheap primary healthcare that receives significant financial support or is completely free for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents. If you choose to have more luxurious care in private rooms, there may be additional charges.
But it's not the same for people from other countries who live and work in the city. They can't get the low prices that are only available to local residents. So, ex-pats who don't have permanent residency need to get a special health insurance plan that covers the healthcare costs not covered by their status. In this article from Pacific Prime Singapore, we will explore Singapore's healthcare system in more detail.
An Overview of Singapore's Healthcare
A Look at Singapore's Healthcare System
The government in Singapore regulates both public and private healthcare. Singaporeans have universal healthcare, which means the government funds the public health system and requires mandatory health insurance. People can easily access healthcare services in public facilities, although they still need to pay for them.
Singapore’s public health insurance system
As a part of Singapore's Healthcare System In Singapore, the government pays for a part of the healthcare expenses through taxes, but it doesn't cover everything. People and their employers have to pay for the remaining costs through mandatory life insurance and deductions from their savings plan or the Central Provident Fund (CPF). The main components of Singapore's public health insurance system are Medishield, Medisave, and Medifund.
In this discussion, we will concentrate on two healthcare programs called Medishield and Medisave.
- Medishield: In Singapore, if you have major medical expenses, you can use a health insurance called Medishield Life. It's a basic plan that is available to all permanent residents and citizens to help pay for big bills and expensive outpatient treatments like kidney dialysis. If you want more coverage, you can buy additional plans called Private Integrated Shield Plans from private health insurance companies.
- Medisave: In this savings plan, employees have to save a certain percentage of their monthly salary (between 8 and 10.5 percent, depending on age group). Singaporeans can use the money in their Medisave accounts to cover the costs of certain regular healthcare services for themselves and their immediate family members.
Medishield and Medisave form the foundation of Singapore's health insurance system. Singaporean citizens and permanent residents cover their regular expenses using their Medisave accounts. If the situation becomes severe enough to reach the deductible, they can then tap into their Medishield account.
If you are not a registered permanent resident, you cannot receive government assistance or subsidies for your healthcare, which includes MediShield Life coverage.
If you don't have private health insurance, you have to pay for treatments and doctor visits using your own money.
Cost of Singapore's Healthcare
In contrast to Singapore's healthcare systems in socialist countries, Singaporeans do not have the option to simply visit a clinic or hospital and get free treatment. Instead, Singapore requires individuals to pay fees for all healthcare services. This policy aims to discourage unnecessary use of medical services.
To illustrate, the Ministry of Health regularly releases fee benchmarks for both public and private treatments. These benchmarks provide patients with an idea of the expected cost of care. They also serve as a reference for private health insurance companies in determining reasonable and customary fees (R&C). Therefore, if a healthcare facility charges significantly more than the R&C fees, you might be responsible for covering the additional expenses personally.
Cost benchmark of Singapore's Healthcare
The costs mentioned below come from the MOH Benchmark Fee website. They usually include charges for a doctor's consultation, ward fees, medication, tests, and more. Additionally, prices can vary based on the type of ward.
In public subsidized hospitals, we provide the prices for Ward B. This ward has 5-6 beds and a semi-automated electric bed. On the other hand, for public unsubsidized hospitals, we use Ward A. This ward offers a single room with a private bathroom and additional amenities like a TV, toilets, and telephone. All the prices mentioned below are in SGD.
Here are the costs of different medical treatments in various types of hospitals. The figures below show the price ranges for each treatment category.
Treatment: Emergency Expansion of Blocked Heart Vessels
- Public Hospital (Subsidized): $5,872 - $8,694
- Public Hospital (Unsubsidized): $16,053 - $25,863
- Private Hospital: $37,075 - $49,230
Treatment: Respiratory Infections or Inflammations with Complications
- Public Hospital (Subsidized): $1,062 - $2,084
- Public Hospital (Unsubsidized): $2,866 - $7,012
- Private Hospital: $8,816 - $22,970
Treatment: Head Injury
- Public Hospital (Subsidized): $761 - $1,950
- Public Hospital (Unsubsidized): $1,151 - $2,159
- Private Hospital: $3,355 - $7,328
Treatment: Brain Stroke with Complications
- Public Hospital (Subsidized): $1,483 - $2,561
- Public Hospital (Unsubsidized): $3,718 - $7,424
- Private Hospital: $3,760 - $8,970
Treatment: Kidney Failure with Complications
- Public Hospital (Subsidized): $1,248 - $2,528
- Public Hospital (Unsubsidized): $2,700 - $7,002
- Private Hospital: $5,946 - $20,975
Source: Ministry of Health (MoH) website. Last updated on October 20th, 2022.
The government subsidy for bills can vary from 50% to 80% based on different factors. Afterward, citizens and permanent residents rely on their insurance, such as MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans, as well as MediSave payouts, to pay for the fees.
Hospitals in Singapore
Public hospitals in Singapore have greater autonomy compared to government-run institutions in other countries. As a result, competition is encouraged in the public market, leading to improved patient experiences. Public facilities prioritize low costs and high service quality, which influences private hospitals and clinics to provide exceptional healthcare. They must compete with the already high-quality and more affordable public hospitals. Singapore's public and private hospitals differ in various ways, and the following sections will explore these details.
Singapore has a total of eleven public hospitals. Among them, there are seven general hospitals, one hospital specifically for women and children, two community hospitals, and one psychiatric hospital. These hospitals offer a wide range of services, including inpatient, outpatient, and emergency care. Additionally, patients who require specialized treatments such as dermatological care or dentistry can visit dedicated specialty clinics. It's important to note that public hospitals in Singapore operate similarly to private centers in other countries. This is possible due to reforms implemented in the 1980s, which granted hospital management greater independence from governmental control.
In a public hospital, patients have different options for their accommodation: they can choose between wards with nine, six, five, or four beds, or they can go for a private room. The hospital offers a variety of specialists, and there are also specialist clinics located outside the main branch of the hospital, such as urology and obstetrics clinics. Unlike public hospitals in other countries, public patients in Singapore receive advantages like shorter waiting times, the opportunity to see the same doctor for every appointment, and a pleasant atmosphere.
List of Public Hospitals in Singapore
- Firstly, there is Alexandra Hospital.
- Next, we have Changi General Hospital.
- Additionally, we have Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.
- Moreover, there is Yishun Community Hospital.
- Furthermore, we have KK Women's and Children's Hospital.
- In addition to that, we have the National University Hospital.
- Likewise, we have Ng Teng Fong General Hospital.
- Similarly, there is Jurong Community Hospital.
- Moreover, we have Singapore General Hospital.
- Additionally, there is Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
- Finally, we have the Institute of Mental Health.
In Singapore, there are 10 private hospitals and several private clinics. These hospitals are mainly run by three groups: Parkway Holdings, Pacific Healthcare Holdings, and Raffles Medical Group. If you have been to a hospital from any of these groups before, you might prefer to use their services while you're in Singapore. Private hospitals are generally smaller but offer more private rooms and luxurious care, though you need to be willing to pay for it.
Let's take a look at the rates of two hospitals in Singapore. At Gleneagles Singapore, the prices for a single room start at SGD 722, while their most luxurious suite, which is comparable to a 5-star hotel, can cost as much as SGD 8,088 per day. However, Raffles Hospital offers a variety of single room options, with prices ranging from SGD 728 to SGD 5,888 for the opulent presidential suite.
List of Public Hospitals in Singapore
- Firstly, there is Concord International Hospital.
- Next, we have Farrer Park Hospital.
- Additionally, we have Gleneagles Hospital.
- Moreover, there is Mount Alvernia Hospital.
- Furthermore, we have Mount Elizabeth Hospital.
- In addition to that, we have the Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital.
- Likewise, we have Parkway East Hospital.
- Similarly, there is Raffles Hospital.
- Moreover, we have Thomson Medical Centre.
- Finally, we have the Institute of Mental Health.
Many foreigners living abroad prefer private hospitals since the expenses of going to a private hospital are comparable to those of public hospitals for temporary residents. Additionally, private hospitals offer shorter waiting times for popular treatments and provide better customer service for private patients.
Private health insurance in Singapore
Most ex-pats are buying private health insurance to cover the costs of medical treatment in case they need more advanced and costly care. Here are some common types of insurance coverage offered by individual health insurance policies in Singapore:
- Inpatient coverage: In simple terms, most health insurance plans provide coverage for hospital stays as a basic requirement. Inpatient insurance pays for your expenses when you're hospitalized, and these costs are typically the highest.
- Outpatient coverage: This benefit covers medical treatment or doctor visits that don't need you to stay in the hospital overnight. Additionally, it provides coverage for such visits.
- Maternity coverage: You can get this insurance as an extra perk if you plan on having a baby. It pays for the costs of prenatal care, giving birth, and sometimes urgent care after childbirth. However, there is a waiting period (10 - 24 months) before you can use the insurance, so it's a good idea to get it before you become pregnant.
- Pre-existing conditions coverage: Usually, a pre-existing condition refers to a health issue that you have already been treated for or diagnosed with before you join a new health insurance plan. In general, insurance providers do not cover such conditions, but some companies offer coverage for them at an additional cost.
- Family insurance plan: Family insurance is considered a small group health plan. It can cover all your loved ones and also helps lower the premiums. These plans are specifically designed to take care of the health of children, senior citizens, and everyone in between.
- The dental insurance and vision coverage: These add-ons are popular among people who want to pay for their dental and optical costs.
Private health insurance for ex-pats simplified
Finding the right insurance among the many choices can be challenging, but it's worth consulting a knowledgeable ex-pat insurance broker such as Pacific Prime Singapore. Our team has over 20 years of experience assisting ex-pats in locating and comparing health insurance options. We are here to help you discover the most suitable health plan for your requirements and budget, provide unbiased guidance, and address any inquiries you might have regarding Singapore's healthcare system.
Examining the Advantages and Disadvantages of the Singapore Healthcare System
Singapore's healthcare system is renowned for its advanced facilities and exceptional healthcare professionals. Nevertheless, similar to any system, it exhibits its imperfections. Expatriates do not receive subsidies similar to those provided to locals or permanent residents (PRs), which can result in exorbitant medical expenses when seeking treatment.
If you are living in Singapore or thinking of moving there, it won't be a surprise to learn that the cost of living is very high, including healthcare expenses. But here's some good news: you can get a local or international health insurance plan to help manage these costs.
But hold your horses! Prior to delving into health insurance and financial aspects, let's pause and explore the advantages and disadvantages of the Singapore healthcare system. Understanding these factors will empower you to maximize the benefits of this distinctive system as an ex-pat residing and working in the city-state.
The Pros of Singapore's Healthcare System
When considering Singapore's healthcare system, the foremost aspect that stands out is its efficiency. Singapore's administration and delivery of healthcare services, from government regulations and financing models to advanced medical technologies and beyond, deserve much praise.
Strong government oversight and regulation
The Singapore healthcare system relies on the government to oversee and regulate it. The government steps in and provides support in areas where the market fails, and it also manages the main public hospitals and the supply of doctors. Additionally, the private sector is encouraged to compete freely.
Technology-driven medical facilities and practitioners
In Singapore, both the government and private companies provide excellent healthcare services using modern medical facilities and highly skilled professionals. Additionally, they utilize advanced technologies like virtual systems, AI, and Robotics to improve efficiency and enhance patient results.
For example, Polyclinics in Singapore are working hard to improve the accessibility and affordability of healthcare by using a virtual system. Here's how it works: the nurse who is taking care of the patient will enter their medical condition into the system, and then the system will suggest the tests and specialist consultations that are needed at the National Heart Centre in Singapore.
Sustainable financing can be achieved by using an integrated approach that includes individual saving plans.
In terms of funding the healthcare system, the Singapore government has a practical plan with three main components. First, they use tax measures to support affordable public healthcare services. Second, individuals have saving plans to cover immediate medical expenses. And finally, there is specific coverage provided by medical insurance.
Transparency in pricing information
In Singapore, both public and private hospitals have clear and transparent information about the fees charged by private sector professionals. The Ministry of Health (MOH) regularly establishes fee benchmarks, which help patients understand and compare the charges. This allows patients to make well-informed decisions and ensures that they are billed accurately.
The Cons of Singapore's Healthcare System
Singapore's healthcare system has a few drawbacks. One issue is that healthcare isn't free, and ex-pats and digital nomads are unable to benefit from public subsidy schemes. Additionally, there is a dependence on institutions, high costs for long-term care, and lengthy hospital wait times.
Healthcare isn’t technically free
In contrast to many other countries around the world, Singapore does not provide free healthcare services to its residents. In Singapore, individuals are required to pay for their own medical care, even if they are enrolled in government subsidy schemes or mandatory savings plans like Medicare or Medishield.
Expats don’t get access to the public subsidy scheme
When it comes to personal saving plans such as Medicare or Medishield, they are specifically for Singapore citizens and PRs. Expats cannot use these plans and are advised to get private health insurance to prevent having to pay for healthcare expenses themselves.
Significant reliance on institutions
Singapore's healthcare system depends on institutions that prioritize preventative medicine and centralization. This approach has been successful in tackling previous healthcare challenges such as smallpox and tuberculosis. However, it is less effective in dealing with current health concerns, which are primarily chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Expensive long-term care costs
Although the government provides subsidies in Singapore, taking care of the elderly or people with conditions like dementia can still be very costly. Additionally, patients only have a few choices when it comes to long-term care, mainly community hospitals or nursing homes.
Long hospital wait times
Using the public healthcare sector in Singapore can become exhausting because you have to wait for a long time to see doctors and receive care. The same goes for inpatient treatment and emergency services in certain situations. Nonetheless, this is a common characteristic found in public healthcare systems around the world.
Now, you should feel confident about Singapore's healthcare system. Not only does it provide excellent healthcare, but it is also well-organized. The only thing to note about the system is that it may take some time to understand due to its unique complexities, and it can be expensive.
If you are planning to start a family in Singapore, we highly recommend reading our article on the cost of giving birth in the country. Maternity expenses are something you can plan and prepare for, especially if you want access to the best prenatal and postnatal care while being far from home.
In any case, it would be beneficial to consider obtaining ex-pat health insurance in Singapore to reduce your medical expenses. We can assist you in finding and securing the most suitable plan that meets your healthcare and lifestyle needs, including maternity coverage if needed, while also considering your budgetary requirements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the healthcare system in Singapore well-regarded?
Singapore boasts one of the world's most successful healthcare systems, taking into account factors such as efficient financing and the remarkable health outcomes experienced by the community.
Are there any difficulties that the Singapore healthcare system is currently dealing with?
One major difficulty is the presence of an aging population with intricate healthcare requirements. This issue should be tackled by having exceptional primary care providers.
Do foreigners need to pay for healthcare in Singapore?
Singapore citizens and PRs receive subsidies for government healthcare services, whereas foreigners do not. Instead, they must obtain health insurance through their employer, purchase it independently, or cover hospital expenses from their own funds.
Why does healthcare in Singapore cost so much?
Well, compared to other countries in the region, the healthcare costs in Singapore are considered high, although they are not as high as in countries like the US. Several factors contribute to this high cost, including changing demographics, investments in medical technology, and other factors.
What are the difficulties that healthcare in Singapore faces?
These challenges arise primarily from the increasing number of non-communicable diseases and the aging population. Additionally, there are limitations in the way primary care and ILTC (Intermediate and Long-Term Care) services are delivered and organized, and certain financial incentives may unintentionally hinder the integration of care.
Can foreigners visit public hospitals in Singapore?
Both locals and foreigners have the freedom to select any medical facility, whether public or private, for their medical treatment or consultations. In emergency situations, the Accident and Emergency Departments in government hospitals, which operate round the clock, are responsible for providing immediate care.
What are the issues with nursing in Singapore?
Despite hiring foreign nurses, there is still a shortage of workforce. Additionally, the shortage is worsened by three major healthcare challenges that Singapore faces:
(1) a fast-growing population,
(2) an aging population, and
(3) an increasing burden of chronic diseases.
What makes Singapore's healthcare special?
Well, it has a government-run publicly funded universal healthcare system along with a large private healthcare sector. The costs of healthcare are covered through a combination of government subsidies, mandatory savings, national healthcare insurance, and sharing expenses.
How does healthcare work in Singapore?
Recently, Singapore's healthcare system was ranked as the most efficient in the world out of 51 countries. This was determined by considering factors like the cost of healthcare compared to the country's total economic output, the average lifespan of its citizens, and the healthcare expenses per person.
Is healthcare Free in Singapore?
In Singapore, healthcare is not free, but it is available to all citizens through a universal healthcare system. The government funds the public health system and requires everyone to have health insurance. This means that Singaporeans can easily receive medical care in public facilities.