Having healthcare insurance ensures that some of your medical and treatment costs are covered in case of illness or injury. There is basic health insurance, MediShield Life, from the government and there is also an option to boost your MediShield Life benefits with an Integrated Shield Plan (IP) from a private insurance company for wider coverage.
So what are IPs? Do you need one? Before you buy additional coverage to supplement MediShield Life, we shed some light on what to consider.
Here are the basics that you should know
What is MediShield Life?
MediShield Life is a basic health insurance scheme by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board that helps to offset large hospital bills in public hospitals, and selected outpatient treatments such as kidney dialysis and chemotherapy for cancer.
Who is covered under MediShield Life?
All Singapore citizens and permanent residents are automatically covered for life, including seniors and those with preexisting medical conditions.
What is an Integrated Shield Plan (IP)?
An IP is optional health coverage provided by private insurance companies that provides healthcare insurance beyond what MediShield Life covers. It comprises two components—MediShield Life which you are already covered for, and an additional private insurance component.
IPs allow you to enjoy the combined benefits of MediShield Life and additional private insurance coverage which is run by private insurers. IPs cover hospitalisations, surgical procedures, pre- and post- hospitalisation claims, and certain outpatient treatments, depending on your private insurance plan. IPs also provide additional coverage for stays in A or B1 ward types in both public and private hospitals.
Did you know?
As MediShield Life is already part of any IP plan, there won't be any duplicates in terms of coverage provided by MediShield Life and your IP.
Before you buy an Integrated Shield Plan
If you're thinking of getting an IP to boost your healthcare coverage, it is important to determine which type of IP is suitable for you and within your means, as IP premiums can be costly. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you decide.
MediShield Life provides coverage for all ward types but the level of benefits is pegged to B2/C wards in public hospitals, where you will be looked after by a team of doctors. IPs provide additional coverage for private hospital stays and A/B1 wards in public hospitals, where you can choose your doctor.
By evaluating your preferences for ward type and hospital carefully, you can narrow down your options for insurance and plan your coverage accordingly.
Your MediShield Life premium is fully paid for using MediSave. For those with IPs, there are additional withdrawal limits to use MediSave to pay for the additional IP premium, but there is a cap and you have to pay for the rest in cash.
On top of the IP premium which is usually higher, some may buy riders (extra protection) for add-on coverage. This requires a separate premium which has to be paid using cash as well. All these premiums will significantly increase each year as you age, so you have to think long-term when it comes to budgeting. What may sound affordable to you right now may not be so affordable five to 10 years down the road.
If you have a domestic helper or own a business, you are required by law to buy medical insurance for every foreign worker that you employ. According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), this insurance should have a minimum coverage of S$15,000 per year that covers inpatient care and day surgery, including hospital bills for conditions that may not be related to work.
In 2020, MOM announced that an employer was investigated for failing to buy the required insurance for their foreign worker. The company also failed to pay the medical expenses incurred when the employee suffered severe injuries during a fall at a construction site. Treatment and hospitalisation for the worker amounted to almost S$296,000, and he is now a bed-ridden quadriplegic.
As healthcare costs for such cases can lead to high medical bills, having adequate insurance coverage for your foreign worker will ensure that you won't have to worry about the high costs should unfortunate accidents occur.
Getting treated at public healthcare
If you have an IP, you have the option to be treated at a private hospital, but you can also get the most out of your IP by going to a public hospital.
Singapore ranked top in the 2020 Bloomberg Health-Efficiency Index for having the most efficient healthcare system and best healthcare outcomes out of 57 countries. Whether you go to a public or private hospital, you know you'll be getting quality medical care.
At a public hospital, you will have access to a comprehensive suite of clinical specialties and medical services. This includes getting treated in a seamless manner by highly qualified medical specialists and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, dietitians and speech therapists, as well as rehabilitative and therapeutic care services.
You will have access to expertise from all national specialty centres in Singapore. For instance, Sengkang General Hospital (SKH) collaborates with the National Cancer Centre Singapore (NCCS), National Heart
Centre Singapore (NHCS) and Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) to offer specialised care to patients at the SKH Medical Centre. Public hospitals are also well-equipped with facilities outfitted with the latest medical technology to perform complex surgeries and specialised radiological procedures.
Depending on your IP, you can choose a single-bed 'A' ward in a public hospital which has facilities on par with private hospitals. A single-bed room at SKH has en-suite bathroom, air-conditioning, television and telephone, wardrobe with safe, mini-bar fridge, and a sofa bed for a caregiver. Public hospitals also tend to be located closer to residential areas, making it more accessible — you'll never be too far away from home and your family.
Disclaimer: Information adapted from MoneySense, Central Provident Fund (CPF) and Ministry of Health (MOH). The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice or recommendation. Readers are advised to exercise their own due diligence and consult a financial consultant for financial advice.
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