How to Find the Best Health Insurance

Health insurance is a key foundational product everyone should have. As hospitalisation costs are so expensive, it is important you have good health insurance coverage in the event of an emergency. In this guide, we break down how to evaluate health insurance plans across many different factors including price, benefits, riders, and more.

toy ambulance

Whether you are looking to supplement your Medishield Life policy with an Integrated Shield Plan or you are an expat looking for health insurance during your stay in Singapore, the path to buying the right supplemental health insurance plan can be riddled with questions. To help you make the right decision, we discuss the different factors you should consider before making your health insurance purchase.

Click into our drop down table of contents to help you swiftly navigate our all encompassing guide to health insurance in Singapore.

Integrated Shield Plans vs. International Health Insurance

In Singapore, there are two types of private health insurance plans to choose from: Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) and International Health Insurance.

For Singaporean citizens and permanent residents, Integrated Shield Plans are the most commonly purchased private health insurance as they act as a supplement to Medishield Life and are payable with your Medisave account. They are a good option for Singaporeans/ PRs who wish to get higher levels of coverage or get coverage for a higher hospital ward.

IPs are jointly insured by the CPF board and private insurance companies, and are integrated with your Medishield Life plan. There are currently 7 insurers in Singapore offering IPs: HSBC Life, AIA, Singlife, Income, Great Eastern, Prudential and Raffles Health. Most of their coverage is similar, with the major differences being premiums, some miscellaneous benefits and the optional riders.

International health insurance can be a good option for expats who have settled in Singapore and for Singaporeans who frequently travel and live abroad for months at a time. International health insurance plans provide coverage for multiple countries. However, unlike Integrated Shield Plans, you cannot use your Medisave monies to pay for them nor are they exclusively sold by Singapore-based insurers.

International health insurance plans differentiate themselves by region of coverage and by comprehensiveness of their benefits. While base plans usually only cover hospitalisation, you can choose to top up your coverage by adding outpatient, dental and maternity packages.

Related: 5 Surprising Things Your Integrated Shield Plan Doesn’t Cover

How to Choose the Best Integrated Shield Plan

There are several factors to consider before settling on a plan when you are looking to supplement your Medishield life with an IP. These factors include the hospital ward you want coverage for, the benefits the plan offers and the cost.

Despite IPs being fairly similar across the board among these factors, you’ll notice there are some key differences that can make one insurer a better fit for you over others.

Tiers of Integrated Shield Plans (IP)Coverage
Highest Tier Plan – Private HospitalPrivate Hospital Standard Room/ ward class A (As charged*)
Highest Tier Plan – Restructured/ Public HospitalRestructured/ Public hospital ward class A and below (As charged*)
Mid Tier Plan – Restructured/ Public HospitalRestructured/ Public hospital ward class B1 and below (As charged*)
Standard Integrated Shield Plan (latest addition)Developed in response to the MediShield Life Review Committee’s recommendation in 2014, to provide a “no-frills” IP option (per benefit claim limit**)

Restructured/ Public hospital ward class B1 and below

Standardised across the insurers

*As charged – All Expenses incurred by the Life Assured in the Hospital and ward class of the Life Assured’s entitlement under the Plan Type insured.

**Per benefit claim limit*– The expenses incurred by the Life Assured is claimable up to the limit stated in the policy schedule. 

For example: Daily ward and treatment charges (normal ward) – S$2,250  per day claim limit

Choosing a Plan Based on Hospital Ward

The first thing to think about before settling on a plan is to decide which hospital ward you would like to stay in. Those who prioritise privacy may appreciate the one-bed or double bed rooms ward A offers. On the other hand, someone who doesn’t mind being around a few people may find the four-bed B1 ward rooms more to their liking compared to the more crowded eight-bed rooms of ward Cs.

The type of ward you choose can change your IP premium significantly, with premiums increasing with the privacy of the ward. Thus, wards are an important factor to consider, not only because it will play an important role in the comfort of your hospital experience but it can affect your ability to afford your premium as well.

average cost of integrated shield plan by ward type

For instance, your premium can be as much as 295% more expensive when upgrading from a ward A (public hospital) to a private hospital plan, equivalent to an average of several hundred dollars or more, depending on your age. Paying more for a higher ward class can make sense if you know you will only want to get treated at ward A or private hospitals. Don’t fall into the trap of overspending by buying a ward A plan just in case you’ll want to get treated there, but in reality spend most of your hospitalisations in a ward B1 or below.

Related: Ward Classes, Pro-Rations and IP Plans: Here’s What You Need To Know

Choosing a Plan Based on Benefits and Medical Coverage

Besides choosing a plan based on the type of hospital wards, you should also compare the coverage offered by the insurers. This will ensure that you are getting a plan that will cover all of your medical concerns and won’t leave you hanging dry when you need to claim for a particular medical expense.

You’ll find most of the coverage to be fairly standard across IPs, with major differences being annual limits, pre and post-hospitalisation coverage and a variety of miscellaneous benefits. All Standard IPs (Standard Plan tier, which was developed in response to the MediShield Life Review Committee’s recommendation in 2014 to provide a “no-frills” IP option and is offered on per benefit claim limit) provide the same coverage, so those considering a Standard IP should compare premiums rather than coverage.

When comparing benefits of IPs, looking at their annual limits can be a good place to start, since benefits that are considered to be fully covered are still limited by the annual limit. For instance, annual limits for ward B1 plans (restructured/ public hospital) range from S$200,000 to S$500,000 and between S$550,000 to S$2,500,000 for ward A (restructured/ public hospital) & Private plans.

Furthermore, there are other benefits to consider depending on your medical needs. For instance, you can compare pre-and post-hospitalisation days coverage if you are looking for a plan with generous coverage for the time before your scheduled hospitalisation and for your subsequent recovery. Those concerned about psychiatric coverage should look for plans that provide inpatient and post-hospitalisation psychiatric coverage. There are even some plans that offer additional critical illness coverage, so consumers looking for some extra health coverage for illnesses such as heart attacks and stroke will find benefit in plans that provide this perk.

Standard Plan (restructured/ public hospital)Ward B1 Plan (restructured/ public hospital)Ward A ((restructured/ public hospital) & Private Plan
Annual LimitS$200,000S$310,000S$1,246,429
Pre-Hospitalisation Coverage (Days)140116202
Post-Hospitalisation Coverage (Days)233183369
*Information as of March 2024

Choosing a Plan Based on Riders Offered

In addition to choosing a plan based on its base coverage, you should also look at the riders it offers. While you can no longer purchase riders that fully cover the deductible and co payment, you can still find some useful benefits in the variety of IP riders offered.

For instance, riders can offer emergency outpatient coverage, coverage for post-hospitalisation alternative treatment and immediate family hospital accommodation. Some riders also cover up to 95% of the co-insurance and may even cover the annual deductible. In 2022, the Cancer Drug List (CDL) was introduced. This announcement saw changes in IP and the riders coverage. Only cancer treatments on the CDL can be eligible for government subsidy and be paid for with MediSave. Otherwise, the treatment costs for drugs not on the CDL would have to be paid for out of pocket. For people with IPs, coverage ranges from double to five times the MediShield Life limits, depending on their insurer and plan.

Cancer treatment coverage limit is generally much higher for those who have bought IP riders. However, these riders are not Medisave deductible, so you should make sure you can afford the extra cost even if you find these benefits to be useful.

Rider BenefitsAmount
Parental Accommodation in WardS$60 to S$80/day
Ambulance/Taxi CoverageS$80 to S$250 per illness/ injury treatment
Alternative TreatmentS$5,000 to S$9,000
Emergency OutpatientS$1,500 to S$3,000
*Information as of March 2024
**The above are examples of IP rider benefits. The exact offering are defined by each insurance company and may differ.

Related: Elevate Your Coverage Game with Hospital Cash Insurance Plans

Choosing an IP Plan Based on Cost

Health insurance is one of those things where you can’t always purchase based on your budget—if you need coverage for certain health issues you may have no choice but to pay more. IPs get more expensive the higher the ward you choose and the older you get. You might not even be able to get full coverage if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions. Hence, the general advice is to get the coverage while you are still insurable!  For example, while a Standard plan costs an average of S$103 for a 45-year old, a private hospital plan for the same person will cost S$723. 

Another major factor to consider when choosing your IP is to see whether or not you’ll be able to afford the increase in premiums as you get older. Someone in their 20’s can expect to pay between S$45 and S$221 and someone in their 60’s can expect to pay between S$270 and S$2,014 annually. The majority of the IP’s cost can be offset by your Medisave and you may end up not paying anything out of pocket up until a certain age. However, older individuals and those with ward A or private hospital plans may start paying out of pocket at an earlier age because the Medisave you can put towards your IPs are capped at certain amounts for different age groups. Thus, elderly policyholders of ward B1 to private plans may not be able to afford the premiums that rise above their allowable Medisave contributions.

Average Integrated Shield Plan Premiums Based on Hospital Ward and Age

Related: Guide To Subsidised Healthcare For Senior Citizens In Singapore

IV drip
Source: Unsplash

How to Choose the Right International Health Insurance Plan

Choosing the right international health insurance plan depends on what region you’ll need coverage for, what benefits the plan provides and the plan’s affordability. You will also have to decide if you will really benefit from an international health insurance plan as opposed to an annual travel insurance policy.

You should choose an international health insurance plan if you take overseas trips months at a time, if you temporarily relocate to a new country or if you are an expat living in Singapore. However, you may fare better with the much more economical annual travel insurance plan if you are a Singaporean who goes on a few short business trips a year (annual travel insurance can provide up to 90 days overseas coverage per trip).

Local health insurance (MediShield Life or Integrated Shield Plan) will not be able to cover your overseas medical needs if you are a Singaporean relocating abroad to work. For someone (non-Singaporean or non-Singapore PR) moving to Singapore for study or work, international health insurance is an insurance coverage that you may want to consider getting for yourself (and your family, if they are relocating with you). Healthcare costs are subsidised for Singaporeans, but for foreigners, this can be a hefty cost!

Choosing a Plan Based on Region of Coverage

The first step to choosing a good international health insurance policy is to know which area of the world you’ll need coverage in. For example, you can look for plans that provide you cover just for the one country you will be spending most of your time in. On the other hand, global citizens who travel constantly and need coverage for multiple locations can benefit from an insurer that provides regions of coverage (i.e. worldwide coverage plans). You have to know whether or not you’ll need US coverage. This is because most insurers leave out the United States from worldwide plans unless you specifically get a plan that includes it—and oftentimes this comes at a significant cost increase.

Expats living in Singapore also have the option of getting either a Singapore only plan or a plan that provides coverage in the ASEAN. This ASEAN or ASIA-only plan can be more cost effective than purchasing a worldwide plan for those who will need coverage beyond Singapore due to frequent business trips/longer term work assignments.

Choosing a Plan Based on Benefits

Getting the right insurance plan means you’ll be receiving enough coverage for your current and potential medical needs. You should examine all the benefits that are offered by the insurer as well as all the exclusions.

For instance, finding a plan with a high annual limit and comprehensive coverage can be a good option if you are looking for all-around coverage where everything from cancer to the common cold is covered. On the other hand, you can find plans that provide specific coverage for things you are concerned about such as maternity benefits or mental health. For those looking for outpatient, maternity, dental or vision coverage, international health insurance plans also offer optional add-on packages that provide these coverages, albeit sometimes at a hefty cost.

BenefitsAvg. Basic PlanAvg. Mid-Tier PlanAvg. Top Tier Plan
Annual LimitS$1,543,039S$3,061,078S$4,900,000.00
Hospitalisation ChargesFully CoveredFully CoveredFully Covered
Medical EvacuationS$1,000,000S$1,000,000S$1,000,000
Local Ambulance ServicesFully CoveredFully CoveredFully Covered
*Information as of March 2024

Considering that healthcare around the world is quite costly, you should make sure your health insurance will not only cover your specific health concerns but also have a high enough annual limit to prevent paying out of pocket for some of the more costlier medical emergencies such as accidents, cancer and chronic conditions. To make sure you are getting a plan with enough coverage, we suggest you take a look at your past medical expenses and adjust them to reflect the cost of similar treatments and procedures in your new location. That way, you will prevent under or over-insuring.

Choosing a Plan Based on Cost

With international health insurance costing as much as several thousand dollars a year, price is another important factor to consider when choosing the right plan. Premiums tends to increase with age. You are likely to start off paying an average of S$2,760 per year for a low tier international plan when you are 25, with premiums growing to as much as S$6,766 per year by the time you are 55. 

Cost Comparison of International Health Insurance for Singaporeans Living Abroad

The same consideration goes for choosing an add-on outpatient coverage to your base plan. These optional/ add-on benefits also increase the premium payable. You should consider your needs, wants and budget in totality prior to making a decision. 


Choosing the right health insurance is vital as it is considered a long-term investment. Switching insurers can backfire on you as it can result in higher premiums and exclusions of previously covered chronic conditions. Thus, it is vital to choose a health plan that offers the right coverage and premium that you will be able to afford not just at current age, but in the future as well.

It is also important to discuss with your insurer what conditions are excluded from coverage. While some insurers will absolutely refuse coverage for pre-existing conditions, others may include them on a case by case basis or charge an extra percentage (aka loading) on your premium in exchange for giving you the coverage. 

If you would like to learn more about the types of health insurance that is available, you can read our guide to the best Integrated Shield Plans, as well the best international health insurance.

Discover The Best Health Insurance PlansFind Out More

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Cover image source: Unsplash

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