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You’ve chosen a great country to reside in. Singapore is one of the world’s cleanest countries with an efficient government, great public facilities, highly educated population and an incredible infrastructure. English is the official language of commerce, but it’s common to hear Mandarin and other ethnic languages spoken in most places. Rest assured you’ll have little problem communicating with the locals and finding your way around our Garden City. Singapore’s health care system is second to none; the clean and efficient public health care facilities are world-class and the high-end medical tourism industry attracts a sizeable number of patients annually.


So as an expat you’re probably wondering why you need an international health insurance plan when it appears that a local health plan will do nicely and cost less to boot.


Here are some thoughts…


Citizens or Foreigners


Let’s forget the high-end medical facilities with Presidential Suites and concierge services that greet you the moment you touch down and consider the public medical facilities for the common man. Cutting-edge technology, cleanliness, efficiency and great service are some words and phrases associated with Singapore’s subsidized healthcare and medical facilities, like hospitals and polyclinics (public clinics). With these, it seems unnecessary for an expat to consider an international health policy; unless of course you prefer coverage for a potential private hospital stay (local health insurance policies have restrictions on private medical facilities).


a.     There are different charges for Singaporeans, Permanent Residents and Foreigners. As an expat, you will need to pay the full cost of medical care in these facilities.

b.    There are different levels of medical care for Singaporeans, from Class A to C. Class A patients enjoy the best care, including a private hospital room and better food, while Class C patients share a room with 6 other occupants. As an expat (Foreigner), Class C medical care could cost as much as that of a private hospital, as the Singapore healthcare system, (especially Class C), it is heavily subsidized by the government.

c.     While the medical facilities are clean and air-conditioned for your comfort, the long waiting time for medical attention can’t be avoided. This is an opportunity cost that could well offset the extra premium you pay for an expat health insurance policy.


Coverage of local health insurance or expat health insurance policies


a.     Portability. Local health insurance plans provide limited coverage; usually restricted to a Singapore only. Expat health insurance policies allow you to choose from a range of options of Area of Cover (Zone) that includes global coverage.

b.    Most local health insurance products do not cover Out-Patient (clinic) expenses; that’s why they are known in Singapore as H&S (Hospital & Surgical) policies. Expat health insurance policies not only cover Out-Patient expenses, but also include many benefits not found in local health insurance policies. For example, “Complementary Medicine” (TCM) is included in many basic expat health insurance plans.  

c.     Guaranteed renewability. Local H&S policies can be renewed, but not without a huge premium increase, if there’s a bad claim history. The premiums of expat health insurance policies are usually increased, not because of an individual’s bad claim history. The adjustment is made after a careful assessment of the entire insurance business as a portfolio and medical costs in general. The increase is usually marginal and unaffected by a bad claim history.


Cost of local health insurance or expat health insurance

It’s a given that local health insurance products are cheaper than expat health insurance plans, but here are some important points to consider:


i.       How much cheaper?

ii.      What are the differences in coverage?

iii.     Is it worth trading certain benefits for a lower premium?

iv.     Is the cheaper local health insurance product providing you with the kind of coverage you really want or need?


Research indicates that the more well-off Singaporeans (those occupying mid to senior management positions) buy expat health insurance not only because of their purchasing power, but also because it includes international coverage, private hospital stays and expenses. So it does make a lot of sense as a foreigner living abroad to choose an expat health insurance plan over a local health product.


For more articles and information on Expat Health Insurance, and things to consider when choosing the right Expat Health Insurance, you can find further free information at www.expathealthinsurance.com.sg


Expat Health Insurance to the Rescue!


We were 8,000 miles away from home, at a ski resort an hour north-east of Beijing. Suddenly, our two-year old daughter grabbed her stomach and started screaming in pain. Her face turned white within a minute.  She was in severe pain and I panicked.     


People around us started dispensing advice, “Give her some medicated oil!”, “Give her a painkiller!”, “Send her to hospital!” Only the last option made sense to me, given the agony my child was in. But which hospital should I send her to and where was the nearest hospital?  We were in a foreign land, barely spoke the language and did not know what do. One constant that rang loud and clear in the torrent of advice dished to us was, “Go to a local hospital, international medical care is extremely costly”.  


Something in me clicked and I suddenly remembered our Expat Health Insurance Policy. Worried, I could not help but wonder if it provided coverage for our vacation. There was only one way to find out.  I dialed the emergency hotline call-collect number stored on my iPhone. My call was answered almost instantly. I was hardly coherent in my panicked state, but the voice on the other end the line was calm and reassuring. The advice was crisp, sharp and clear – seek the best treatment as first priority, and they would take care of the rest. Our Expat Health Insurance policy would cover the cost of our emergency. My panic subsided and my next concern was finding the best medical facility for my daughter. That was taken care of as well, once we provided information on our location. The emergency contact officer promptly provided the exact location of the nearest international health care facility. 


With our financial worries set aside, we immediately headed for the nearest international health care facility in the heart of Beijing. The journey down the ski resort seemed much longer than our journey up. Our attention was fully on our child, trying our best to alleviate her pain. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally reached the hospital. My daughter was whisked into the emergency room and examined by a doctor, while my husband settled the registration matters. The service was commendable and the medical staff, professional and efficient. It was not long before my child calmed down and was treated. Thankfully, the medical emergency was not as serious as we had feared; she had suffered a bout of spasms due to a weak stomach. The news was a great relief. I could not say the same for the bill; the simple treatment cost us US$520.  


While I willingly paid the bill, I could not help but wonder at how disproportionate it was to the type of treatment my daughter received. The same kind of treatment back home would have cost much less. I dread to think of what would have befallen us in terms of medical treatment and costs, if we did not have our Expat Health Insurance policy. I am truly amazed by the extensive coverage of our policy and grateful for the good advice provided by the emergency contact officer. This experience has taught me to truly appreciate the value of an Expat Health Insurance policy.  


This experience has reaffirmed my belief in the importance of having the appropriate health and medical coverage – in my case, the global coverage that comes with my Expat Health Insurance Policy. The premiums buy a peace of mind that is priceless.


For more articles and information on Expat Health Insurance and things to consider when choosing the right Expat Health Insurance plan, you can find further free information at www.expathealthinsurance.com.sg