Singapore has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, and is frequently touted as a reference. The public health system provides high quality services, but in recent years the private sector has grown significantly.
The philosophy of the Ministry of Health of Singapore is to provide quality and affordable medical services for all, whilst promoting healthy living as well as advocating preventive health programmes. The structure of the health system is such that it strives to offer access to healthcare in a timely and cost-effective manner. The country is home to many private clinics, polyclinics, 8 public hospitals, as well as several specialized healthcare centers. Even though this is the last thing we would like you to experience, a visit to a public hospital would be no different to what you would experience in a western hospital, if not better. In fact, wealthy people from all over Asia and beyond tend to congregate to Singapore to take advantage of the professionalism and quality of healthcare services. The public health system in Singapore consists of three main elements: Medisave, Medishield and Medifund. On top of these services, many Singaporeans also elect to have supplemental private health insurance, and it is highly advisable that you check with your employers whether such provisions are present in your employment contract. Workers and visitors who are not classified as Permanent Residents do not benefit from the subsidized access to healthcare, even though they pay similar levels of tax to the government. Although they are able to use primary facilities such as GPs and polyclinics, it is often difficult for newcomers to identify appropriate service providers. Inpatient services are also costly, and it is therefore important that foreigners ascertain themselves that they have adequate insurance cover while in Singapore.
Medisave is a type of compulsory health cover offered to employees in Singapore. Employees contribute 6% to 9% of their monthly wages to a Medical Saving Account (MSA), which are subsequently used to finance any healthcare expenditure, minus any refunds carried out by the government. The contribution levels are based on age, and the maximum amount that can be saved within the fund is fixed. When the holders of the MSAs pass away, they can transfer the accounts to their heirs.
Medishield is an optional health coverage system similar to Medisave, but its goal is to finance expenditures associated with more serious diseases, heavy surgery, or long-term treatments which would not be covered by Medisave. Contributions to Medishield are high but can be directly debited on MSA accounts. A more comprehensive health cover called Medishield Plus offers higher levels of coverage.
Healthcare for visitors to Singapore
Permanent Residents of Singapore can register with Medisave, Medishield, Medishield Plus or Medifund. The registration process needs to be done through the Central Provident Fund (CPF) board. For visitors who are not Permanent Residents, workers under expatriate contracts and students need to register for private insurance services. There are a number of excellent providers, including AON and AXA, but in general your employer or institution of higher education should provide you with details of relevant insurers.
Note that medical prescriptions issued in other countries are not recognized in Singapore. To renew your prescriptions, you need to consult your local General Practitioner and request for a new prescription; it is best to show your GP your old prescription so that he can prescribe the same medication or alternatively a suitable replacement. Pharmacies can be found in supermarkets as well as in shopping areas.
Singapore Ministry of Health www.moh.gov.sg