Singaporeans are known to enjoy high-quality healthcare and live long lives–beating the global life expectancy average by over 12 years. The country ranks number one out of 188 nations in the United Nations' health goal rankings. However, this exceptional quality of medical care also comes at a high price—Singapore citizens pay the greatest amount in dollars for out-of-pocket expenditure compared to the other 12 top economies in APAC. To alleviate some of your financial burden, we discuss 3 ways to reduce your healthcare costs below.
Choose an Appropriate Health Insurance for Your Needs
Health insurance helps you pay for your medical expenses when you fall ill, get injured, or become disabled. All Singaporeans are covered under MediShield Life, a mandatory government health plan to cover large medical expenses. However, given the low premium fees, MediShield Life benefits are correspondingly basic. Payouts are pegged to prices for Class B2 and C wards in public hospitals; so be prepared to pay large sums from your pocket if you plan to stay in a Class B1 or A ward. For that reason, it's recommended to enhance your health insurance coverage with an Integrated Shield plan–it will help prevent any unforeseen medical costs and cover expenses if you prefer B1 or A wards.
Integrated Shield Plans are a combination of MediShield Life with the additional coverage provided by private insurers (ranging from covering Class B1 in public hospitals, all the way to private hospitals). In addition to hospitalisation coverage, you'll also receive coverage for pre/post-hospitalisation costs. If you want additional benefits beyond that, there’s also IP riders to consider. These are add-ons that give you more coverage (e.g. cash allowances while hospitalized). Ultimately, you need to review your current coverage and judge if it’s enough for you. If you find that your current company's healthcare coverage is insufficient, you should start assessing and picking suitable plans immediately.
Request Generic Drugs, Instead of Paying for Brand-Name Versions
It's no secret that brand-name medications are more expensive than their generic alternatives. What you might not know, however, is that from a medical standpoint, past research has shown that generics seem to perform the same as the brand-name drugs. Meaning that you may be forking extra money from your pocket for little benefit. For reference, you’d have to pay S$10.90 for 16 tablets of Panadol (active ingredient: paracetamol) at Guardian, when just S$0.60 more would have gotten you 100 tablets of Paracetamol (500 mg). So, feel free to inform the doctor the next time you're at a clinic that you'd prefer generic medications. Alternatively, you can also request a prescription from the doctor instead. This then gives you the option to purchase the medications you want elsewhere, like Watsons or Guardian.
Take Advantage of Free Checkups and Subsidies
Managing a chronic disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension is an expensive affair in Singapore. Medical bills can quickly pile up and overwhelm. That’s why regular health screenings are important; with early detection and appropriate intervention, you can prevent or delay the onset of certain diseases, as well as complications related to them. You'll also end up reducing medical costs in the future and reduce the risk of losing years off your life.
Think health checkups are too expensive? It’s quite the opposite, especially with Screen for Life, a national screening programme that encourages Singapore Citizens & Permanent Residents to go for regular health screenings and follow-ups. With the subsidies, Singaporean citizens pay S$0 to S$5 per screening visit (other subsidized rates apply for PRs). You can check participating clinics and your eligibility for the programme at the HealthHub site.
Ultimately, Get Into The Habit Of Being Safe & Healthy Everyday
Making use of health insurance and claiming medical expenses do help you save money. However, to truly save money in the long-run, it’d be best to keep yourself healthy through lifestyle habits, like eating well and staying active, so you stay well and away from the doctor.