• published on 1/25/2018
  • 5min

How to manage healthcare costs in Singapore: tips and tricks

Expatriates are often worried about undergoing a medical procedure abroad. It can raise questions about how hygienic are the medical facilities, are the hospital staff experience and capable, how much does medical treatment cost, and so on. If you live in or travel to Singapore, you have no need to be concerned. Indeed, Singapore has one of the most high-performing healthcare systems in the world, according to Bloomberg’s report title Most Efficient Health Care 2014. However, the cost of maintaining such a successful system is high, especially for expatriates.

Healthcare costs in Singapore

Public vs private hospitals

Singapore has one of the best healthcare systems in the world, offering a high quality of care in both public and private medical facilities. As an expatriate you can choose between going to either public or private hospitals and clinics, with public hospitals being generally cheaper, but typically requiring a longer waiting period, even for inpatient treatment. It’s important to remember that unless you’re a permanent resident, public subsidies will not be available and in some cases, expatriates may even be required to pay over and above the unsubsidised rate in public hospitals.

For example, an appendectomy in a public hospital can cost you between S$1,150 and S$9,400 depending on what kind of ward you choose, and S$15,700 up to S$20,400 in a private hospital. You can find more information about medical fees in Singapore on the Ministry of Health’s website.

If you would like to keep your healthcare expenses low while still benefiting from high-quality treatments in Singapore, consider choosing a public hospital or polyclinic, depending on what you’re seeking treatment for.

General practitioners and dentists

Again, the distinction between public and private health services also applies for general practitioners and dentists. Rest assured that the quality of service and treatment is outstanding but the price charged will depend on the type of facility and procedure you will choose. Be aware that only about 20% of Singapore’s primary healthcare needs are served by government-run polyclinics (one-stop primary and preventative healthcare facilities), with most of the public’s needs being served by private clinics.

In terms of prices, a consultation with a general practitioner at a government polyclinic will run non-residents S$47.25 and up to S$125 in a private clinic. For a trip to the dentist, it will cost around S$20 for an examination in the public sector and about S$30 in the private sector.

Singaporean citizens and permanent residents can benefit from a number of government assistance programs to help with their medical expenses, however expatriates are not eligible for these subsidies and healthcare schemes. Therefore, it is highly recommended that expatriates purchase private health insurance to cover the costs of healthcare.

Medical specialists

The full range of medical specialties are represented in Singapore, including a number of specialised hospitals, both public and private. Costs will vary depending on the specialty as well as the facility. For example, an appointment with a dermatologist costs between S$125 and S$250, whereas ophthalmologists will charge between S$80 and S$350.

Drugstores in Singapore

Finding a drugstore in Singapore is quite easy, as there are a number of companies with locations around the island, especially in malls. It’s important to know that Singapore classifies medicines under one of three headings: prescription-only medication (POM), pharmacy-only medication, and medicine for general sale, also known as over-the-counter medicine.

The most well-known pharmacies are Watsons and Guardian, which offer prescription pharmaceuticals and over the counter drugs as well as other health and beauty products.

Many western pharmaceutical and parapharmaceutical products are available but tend to be slightly more expensive than in their country of origin. Some drugs which may have been available over-the-counter in your home country may require a prescription in Singapore and vice versa. Over the counter medicine for both cold & flus as well as fever-reducing medicines usually cost around S$5-10. Pay attention to western cosmetics: they are quite expensive in Singapore. For example, a French moisturizing cream costs between S$30 and S$40.

Cashless direct payment of medical charges

Given that healthcare in Singapore can be quite expensive, especially for expatriates who are not eligible for government subsidies or schemes, it’s important to make sure that you take out private health insurance. In addition to covering the cost of care many international private medical insurance plans will also offer direct billing.

APRIL Singapore’s MyHEALTH international health insurance product not only offers direct billing for hospitals bills through a Letter of Guarantee to the hospital, but it also offers an extensive outpatient direct billing network with over 800 participating doctors and clinics in Singapore.

For more information and advice about protecting yourself from the high costs of care in Singapore, please contact our APRIL Singapore staff or learn more about MyHEALTH, our expat health insurance solution here, including free online quotes.