Healthcare in Singapore rates among the best in the world, according to the latest World Population Review. Researchers gave Singapore a clean bill of health and ranked the country the sixth globally.
However, expats need to understand how the system works and their eligibility for treatment if they become injured or unwell while living overseas.
Singapore has a reputation for efficiency, and the medical sector is no different.
Make sure to read this article looking at the difference between expat healthcare and the NHS.
This guide explains how the healthcare system works in Singapore, the costs, and registering for public or private treatment.
Table of contents
- The Singapore national health service
- Singapore Healthcare Facilities
- Singapore Healthcare For Expats
- How Expats Register For Health Services In Singapore
- Healthcare Costs In Singapore
- Costs Of A Hospital Stay In Singapore
- Surgery Costs In Singapore
- Healthcare In Singapore FAQ
- Health Insurance For Expats In Singapore
- Questions or Comments
Medical professionals are highly trained and nearly always speak English, so it’s usually easy to find a doctor who speaks and understands the language to a good standard.
Prescriptions and healthcare paperwork is also widely available in English.
The big difference from the UK is you need to take out public or private insurance as neither scheme covers some treatments.
Expats living in Singapore must have private cover to work. Non residents who do not live in Singapore cannot use public healthcare.
The Singapore national health service
Everyone living in Singapore must contribute to the Central Provident Fund.
Like national insurance in the UK, the fund supports the national system called the 3M framework, with three tiers of cover.
MediSave is the closest comparison to UK social security, and everyone must pay contributions into a personal account.
However, Singaporean healthcare doesn’t work like the NHS because:
- Treatments are pre-approved.
- MediSave doesn’t cover every treatment
- Funds are drawn from personal accounts each time someone accesses a service
- Treatments are limited to how much someone has in their MediSave account.
- People cannot spend all their contributions – just a proportion with the balance topped up by private health insurance or cash
Contribution requirements vary by age. For example, younger workers need to pay more than older people, based on income levels
The next rung of the ladder is a national health insurance scheme with government backing, offering higher payment contributions and subsidised access to more treatments.
There is no need to buy a MediShield policy, but the cover is more comprehensive than MediSave.
MediShield usually comes into play when a person is seriously ill or suffers a long-term condition. Workers are auto-enrolled into this extended level of cover but have the right to opt-out, usually in favour of private cover.
MediShield Plus is the top-level health cover in Singapore that covers just about every treatment.
However, the premiums are substantially more expensive than either of the other packages.
Singapore Healthcare Facilities
Most hospitals and clinics offer a mix of private and public treatments, but only around a fifth of healthcare centres delivering front-line care are government-funded.
Even some government-run hospitals offer public and private treatment options, including:
- General hospitals – offering similar services to those in the UK, including accident and emergency departments
- Private hospitals – treatments are paid-for, but these facilities have the shortest waiting lists
- Community hospitals – designed for low-income Singapore residents, often funded by wealthy benefactors and staffed by volunteers
- Polyclinics – these clinics usually have several doctors with different specialisms.
Singapore Healthcare For Expats
Patients living in Singapore can expect up to a 70 per cent subsidy on the cost of treatment.
Resident expats are offered much less financial help – on average around 20 per cent of the cost.
Non-resident expats are not entitled to any subsidy and must pay the total price for all treatments or cover the cost with a private insurance policy.
Non-residents do not have to register for MediSave or MediShield, but the option is available.
There are two ways to enrol:
- Through an employer, as many businesses offer staff health insurance
- Expats can purchase a policy, either privately or through the 3M system.
It’s worth checking the level of cover available through any employer policy. This cover may not omit many treatments, so many expats top-up their public insurance with private healthcare.
How Expats Register For Health Services In Singapore
Provided you have sufficient health insurance to meet your visa requirements; it’s usually not worth trying to register for local healthcare facilities before you travel.
Most require on-site registration and will offer English language forms.
The easiest way to register with a doctor in Singapore is to:
- Find your nearest doctor’s surgery
- Visit reception to request a form
- Complete and return the documents
Surgeries will record your details and have them to hand if you need to make an appointment.
When making an appointment, the surgery may ask for proof of insurance or a deposit.
Fees for an appointment depend on your residency status and health insurance cover.
The Singapore government offers subsidies against most medical costs for anyone contributing to the state healthcare system.
If you are not a resident expat, you’ll usually pay for treatment and claim some money back.
Healthcare Costs In Singapore
Everyday healthcare is relatively cheap, regardless of if the cost is subsidised or covered by insurance.
Appointments with a doctor and a prescription cost around $20 to $30 (£10.65 – £16).
If you need a blood test or X-Ray, you’ll pay around $50 to $80 depending on the facility – between £27 and £43.
Specialist consultations in a private clinic cost more than seeing a doctor, usually between $75 (£40) and $125 (£67).
The price of the same treatment can vary for expats. For example, a consultation with a doctor would cost between £17 and £32 depending on residence status
- Singapore national – $31.99 (£17)
- Expat resident – $40.55 (£22)
- Expat non-resident – $60.88 (£32)
Costs Of A Hospital Stay In Singapore
Treatment costs in a hospital depend on the type of ward you stay on as a patient. Public hospitals offer basic open wards, which rarely have air conditioning, so they aren’t exceptionally comfortable.
Private medical suites are the best available, with five-star facilities. If you have the budget or insurance, these top-class rooms offer personalised care, outstanding catering, and exceptional cleanliness.
Daily hospital charges vary from $30 (£16) at the bottom of the scale, up to $3,000 a day (£1,600) for the most luxurious private hospitals.
Even Singaporeans with maximum government subsidies choose to pay for private insurance. It may make a significant difference to the comfort of a hospital stay, with access to individual rooms rather than an open public ward.
You can find more about pricing structures and the fees chargeable by your local hospital through the Ministry of Health. It’s also worth comparing costs if you intend to find an elective or non-emergency procedure since these vary substantially between clinics.
There is an online HCI Directory, where you can search for anything from nursing homes to private ambulances by region.
Surgery Costs In Singapore
If you need an operation in Singapore, you’ll find that the treatment and care are excellent, although the price differential remains between the cheapest and most expensive wards.
The below table shows a comparison of major surgery costs in Sterling for a clear comparison between Singapore, Thailand and the US.
Surgery costs in Thailand are cheaper, but Singapore hospitals are still substantially lower cost than those in the US.
As one of the top ten countries globally for healthcare, it’s clear why many foreign nationals opt for Singapore as a medical tourism destination if they cannot obtain medical treatments through an insurance policy.
Healthcare In Singapore FAQ
If you are a direct relative of a Singaporean, you are eligible for treatment within the public healthcare system. Otherwise, you will need insurance – a requirement of a visa.
Around 60 per cent of people in Singapore have private medical cover. This provision is added to your public healthcare entitlement if you are a resident as part of an Integrated MediShield Plan.
Taking out pivate cover is advisable since public facilities can’t always cope with demand, and public hospitals have better services and faster treatment options.
No, you can’t take a British prescription to a pharmacy counter in Singapore.
The best option is to bring your medications and current prescriptions and register with a doctor.
They can then issue a domestic prescription or offer an alternative medicine if they can’t provide the same drug or treatment.
Vaccinations for UK nationals to move to Singapore include the following:
Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR)
Some expats may need additional jabs to protect against hepatitis B, rabies, Japanese encephalitis and Tuberculosis.
Healthcare in Singapore isn’t free. Instead, residents pay premiums through public insurance systems to have access to state health facilities.
Expats without residency status or who aren’t contributing to a public insurance policy will need private medical cover.
The government does subsidise treatments, and costs are less for those on low incomes.
The cost of public insurance depends on how much you earn and your age.
Average salaries in Singapore are around $54,408 (£28,952) a year.
On an average salary, you’d pay a nine per cent contribution for a person in their late 30s, making the cost $4,928 (£2,622) a year.
You can check the band you fall into and how much MediShield would cost through the Ministry of Health Singapore.
Private healthcare costs will depend on whether you’re using a MediShield Plan, which will cover the bulk of treatment costs.
For example, an expat with an Integrated Shield Plan can stay in a private hospital but will need to pay around $638 (£340) a year in addition to their MediSave payments.
A lot depends on how comprehensive your plan is. You can add extras such as outpatient services and dental care, but the cost of insurance will increase by a substantial $752 (£400) per month.
Family private cover for four people without a MediSave policy tends to cost around $899 (£478) a month or $10,788 (£5,740) a year.
Health Insurance For Expats In Singapore
Expats working in Singapore are exempt from making mandatory public insurance contributions. However, not making payments into the scheme means that you can’t access the subsidised government health insurance programs.
However, healthcare charges for routine appointments and medications remain low, even if you don’t have private insurance.
Most people in Singapore opt for supplementary insurance, as long-term treatments or healthcare services for serious illnesses are somewhat less affordable.
Medium or large companies often offer a health insurance scheme, which also covers immediate family.
There are many competing insurance companies in Singapore, and they will quote based on the following.
Singapore Insurance Quotes Basis
- Your age
- Level of coverage
As a rough guide, critical illness cover costs from around $75 to $400 a month per person, approximately £40 to £213.
You can also purchase expat health insurance through a broker who specialises in setting up cover for foreign nationals.
It’s essential to read the fine print carefully, as all but the best insurance policies will require some level of personal contribution to the cost of care.
Singapore often ranks as the top expats destination in Asia so expect high level healthcare living in Singapore.
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Questions or Comments
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