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Some insurance companies offer "international health insurance" for people working abroad.

I might move to Singapore in some time, working for a Singaporean company. Currently I'm thinking about health insurance, and I sumbled across this article:

Expatriates are exempted from CPF contributions and do not qualified for any subsidies except for services in Emergency Department. Thus, it is compulsory to have a good international health insurance. One can acquire such health insurance either through the employer or directly from an insurer, an agent or through an independent intermediary like Expatmedicare.

Source

The company I plan to work for sent me an offer that states:

Medical Benefits:

1) Primary Care (GP) (Outpatient) Medical Claims (only employee) at co-payment scheme of $5 per visit unlimited.

2) Specialist Care (Outpatient) at co-payment of $15 per visit unlimited for panel visit and standard X-ray and lab test.

3) Hospitalization leave, 46 days as per MOM regulation.

I wonder, who pays for medicine, if I would be prescribed some?

Does it make sense to have additional international healthcare on top of that?

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I had a similar problem when I moved to Singapore for work a couple months ago. Here are my conclusions.

The offer you got sounds like what the employer is obliged to provide for S-Pass holders and Work Permit holders. In this case, it will cover your medical costs of up to at least 15'000 $. If you are however under an Employment Pass, then this is an extra benefit that your employer provides you voluntarily.

I would recommend you to ask for the detailed information on the insurance, as their coverage might vary a lot. Health insurances here tend to come with a lot of caveats and might not cover some things such as pregnancies, existing conditions or STDs which would be covered in the EU. The maximum amount they cover also varies a lot. Another factor to look out for is the type of ward you will be eligible for (See here for different types of wards) and whether you want to use private or public hospitals. (Both are of excellent quality as far as I can tell). Also note that for outpatient visits to GPs your insurance might only pay for certain clinics on a panel list. However, in my case this panel list is so exhaustive, that I doubt I'll ever be further than 15 minutes from the closest clinic I can go to.

Now if you want to compare your maximum cover to the actual costs, I suggest you have a look at the list of average prices for hospital treatment of the Ministry of Health or outpatient charges at a public hospital. Note that if you go to a GP outside the hospital, this can be a lot cheaper. I usually go to a doctor in a residential neighbourhood (public housing) and the consultation cost is about 20-30$. Of course this will probably be higher if you live in a posh area.

So I'd say, definitely read through your policy very carefully before you decide whether you want to get extra coverage or not, take special note of exclusions and price limits. In the end only you can decide whether this is enough coverage for you or not.

As for prescribed medicine, you will very likely be given your medicine directly by your GP or your hospital. Quite interestingly, contrary to what I'm used to from Switzerland, you get the exact amount of pills you are prescribed in a ziploc bag instead of the whole pack, which makes them quite a bit cheaper.

Also contrary to what is common in Europe, you will in most cases have to pay medical bill first and then you can claim the amount from your insurance.

Overall I can say (after several visits to a hospital and a GP), that the health system is of very high quality, on par with anything you can find in Europe, and the prices quite affordable (compared to Switzerland at least). It is also very convenient as there are lots of GP clinics in residential areas and most of them run on a walk-in basis, so no need to take an appointment. Just (as with everything in Singapore), be prepared to queue up for a while.

  • +1 excellent answer, and I state that both as a former expat & employer of expats in Singapore. – jpatokal Sep 17 '15 at 10:41
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    Thank you for your answer. In the meantime I accepted the job offer and I'll be sure to check what is covered by that insurance. I decided to not go with international health insurance (I was looking at an offer by Allianz), I'd rather get additional coverage if needed after having moved to SG from a local insurance company. I'm really looking forward to SG, but so many things to consider :-) – Max Sep 18 '15 at 6:46
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After having lived in SG now for almost 1.5 years, I think I can answer my question with a clear "It depends". This is my perspective, written from someone who is used to the medical system in Germany.

It is true that I got a health insurance from my employer (it's not like in Germany that some amount of money is deducted from my salary that goes to the state, it's a private insurance). I can't go to any doctor, I can choose from about 250 "panel doctors" that have a contract with the insurance company of my employer. Dental is usually excluded. For general practicioners I pay $5 per visit, flat. Medicine I have to pay for by my self, at least for over the counter drugs. Sometimes the doctor gives me some prescription medicine, which he has ready in some small bag or so in his office, this is for free then. I didn't need any expensive medicine so far beyond that. As far as I know there is a limit of around 15.000 or 20.000 SGD of coverage in total for medical expenses (not limited to medicine).

But I also know other expats that have much less coverage, only GP, no clinics. So yes, do check with your company and their insurance company what is included and what is excluded and how much in absolute dollars.

There are many clinics and GPs in and around SG, so it's not so hard to find one that accept my insurance card. I found that some of them are not really super clean or the doctors are especially knowledgeable, to be honest. I don't doubt that there are very high quality doctors and specialists in SG, but those are not covered by my insurance so I would need to pay it myself. In the end it's then a decision of money and "urgency". If you avoid peak hours, queuing is not an issue as far as I can tell. For a normal cold I also go to just a normal GP, but for dentists I go to some more expensive ones in downtown core. For normal dentist consultation that sets you back at least $90, without anything being done. Dentist bills can grow quite considerable, so be careful and aks first how much they charge if you don't have insurance yourself!

So to answer the question: probably you will be fine, although it will also give you some scary moments (coming from European style healthcare systems). Like, you get your first cold in Singapore, get a bit frightened, then think, maybe I should have checked that up properly, realize that you have to pay yourself, then just get some paracetamol from a GP for $5 and hope for the best.

There are many insurance companies in SG that provide additional coverage, so you can get dental coverage additionally etc. But it really depends what you want and can afford. If you only stay 3 months for an internship and are yound and healthy, go with what the employer provides, otherwise you might want to look into that. That is my personal opinion, YMMV as usual.

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    Thanks for coming back and giving your own experience. In hindsight, I think one aspect that you mention and that my answer didn't address is that a lot of the insurances (the ones you can get yourself, not the employer ones) will only cover big items such as hospitalisation, whereas GP and medication people usually pay themselves. That is definitely a big difference from the compulsory health insurance in Europe. I have to say, I don't think this system is any worse. The fact that you still have to pay for your doctor visits makes the insurance more affordable. – drat Jun 16 '17 at 3:09
  • I do have an opinion on the system in SG, but I didn't want to add that to my answer as it's not really relevant. If someone moves to SG, the person either deals with the system or has to stay at home. – Max Jun 16 '17 at 6:25

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