It is no longer uncommon for Singaporeans to work alongside foreigners in Singapore. After all, more than half the population here are in fact, foreigners. As with their Singaporean co-workers, many foreigners are dumbfounded when it comes to getting insurance coverage here. What’s worse is that at least for locals, we have our Medishield Life to provide some basic health insurance coverage. On top of that, we also get subsidised medical care at public polyclinics and hospitals.
For foreigners working here, they will have to either depend on insurance provided by their company or be responsible for their own coverage. Company policies typically provide rather basic coverage, such as reimbursement for doctor visits and hospital stays, but seldom provide for surgery or critical illness. On the other hand, international health insurance that provides a comprehensive coverage can be very costly as compared to local insurance. Is there no middle ground for expats living here to get affordable and adequate insurance coverage?
Local Insurance VS International Insurance
If you have tried to google “expat insurance”, you are likely to come across a slew of results directing you to international insurance sites. Some common insurers that offer expat insurance include Aetna, Pacific Prime and Cigna. However, such plans typically cost around $800 a month and up for premiums. On top of the hefty rental costs you are paying, this amount is quite substantial.
The good news is that you actually have a cheaper alternative – Integrated Shield plans(IPs). Many foreigners misunderstand that you will need to have Medishield(for Singaporeans and Prs only) in order to have access to these plans but that’s not true. You are eligible to buy and integrated shield plan if you have a valid work pass in Singapore.
These IP provide coverage in Singapore and allows you to claim for hospitalisation and medical bills, day surgeries, pre- and post-hospitalisation treatments. You can also complement your cover to include coverage for deductibles and co-insurance, hospital cash benefits as well as other types of treatments.
The main advantage of taking up a local insurance for your stay in Singapore is that the premiums are significantly more affordable compared to an international insurance – they start from as low as $50 a month! But of course, you shouldn’t pick an insurance plan based on cheap premium, but based on what you need. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing between an international and a local policy:
What type of coverage do you need? This question involves asking yourself the location of coverage, as well as how comprehensive a coverage you are looking at. If you are an expat who relocates every few years or is often travelling, an international insurance might be a better option for you.
However, if you have family here and calls Singapore home for at least the next 5 years, you may want to consider a local insurance.
Basic or comprehensive coverage
You may also want to take into consideration what type of coverage you need. Some expats are used to insurance in their home country that provides dental, maternity and specialist coverage. Locally, insurance typically does not cover these. You may want to check out in detail what type of coverage your company provides as well so that you can get a policy that does not overlap.
Some expats who want to give birth to their kids here may want to also look out for the maternity benefits/coverage offered by the insurance. Integrated Shield plans do not cover maternity charges in hospitals here, so expats looking for that will have to look specifically for maternity insurance. Do note though that maternity insurance usually requires a waiting period of about 10 months to a year before coverage starts.
International insurance may also offer wellness benefits, such as coverage for vaccinations, optical care, health screening, homeotherapy and dental coverage which IP does not cover. If you find that the high premium costs give you more bang for your buck with the comprehensive coverage, then choose an international insurance instead.
Most international insurance works by direct payment, which means that they can pay the hopital directly. On the other hand, local insurance usually works by reimbursements, which means you need to fork out the cash first before you can submit the claims.
International insurance can easily cost a few hundred dollars more than your local insurance, so it is often an influencing factor in deciding which to choose. However, remember that it is difficult to compare fairly since the coverage provided by both are very different as well.
On top of this, you also need to consider that premiums do not stay the same forever. International insurance typically sees increases in premiums at a faster rate than IP since the latter is designed to complement the Medishield. Thus, insurers will have to keep their premiums at an affordable level.
International plans usually provide the option for you to keep the plan when you relocate to other countries. However, local insurance plans will have to be terminated once you decide to leave the country. Depending on your future plans, family situation or job nature, you might want to keep this in mind.
Need more advice on which type of health insurance you should pick? Fill in the form here to find out the best plans for you!