Health Insurance

Pregnancy Complications & MediShield Life: What the New Coverage Means for Singaporean Women

As of April and June 2019, two new important benefits will be added to MediShield Life that aim to make childbirth and pregnancy more affordable. Read on to see how these changes may affect you.

Financial relief is coming soon to women who are at risk of having childbirth complications. Starting in April, MediShield Life will cover 24 pregnancy and childbirth complications According to Edwin Tong, the Senior Minister of State for Health, as many as 4,000 patients per year will benefit from these changes. In this article, we investigate what this news means for expectant mothers and how it could impact them financially.

What Conditions Will Be Covered & How Common Are They?

A total of 24 pregnancy-related conditions will now be covered under MediShield Life. These conditions include some common complications such as still-births, medically necessary abortions, gestational diabetes mellitus, ectopic pregnancy, hemorrhage and uterine rupture. Currently, it is predicted that these additional coverages can benefit up to 4,000 women per year, but as more women over 40 are becoming pregnant, the number of women affected by pregnancy complications can increase. This is because women over 40 are are at a higher risk of pregnancy complications and may thus see more ectopic pregnancies, miscarriages, gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. For instance, preeclampsia, one of the newly covered conditions, affects 4-5% of women and is more common among either very young women or women over 40. Thus, this coverage may come just in time to keep pace with the emerging pregnancy trends.

Additionally, as of June, MediShield Life will also extend subsidised screening under the Screen For Life programme for women with a history of gestational diabetes. These women will no longer have to take the online diabetes risk assessment tool and they will be automatically eligible for subsidised cardiovascular risk screening as well. This is relevant to expecting mothers because gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy and can increase the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes later in life.

This table shows the newly covered conditions under the new MediShield Life inpatient benefit

Do Integrated Shield Plans Offer Coverage for These Conditions?

Approximately 68% of Singaporeans have an Integrated Shield Plan as a complement to Medishield Life. Unfortunately, Integrated Shield Plans do not offer coverage for all of the complications that will now be covered under MediShield Life. In some cases, pregnancy complications coverage will only include a few of the most life threatening conditions, while other insurers will provide coverage for 12-13 of the 24 complications. Furthermore, insurers also have a waiting period of 10 months before you can claim under this benefit. This means that if women want to receive coverage for benefits that are not covered by their IP, they will have to either pay out of pocket or settle for a C1 or B2 Ward.

How Will The New Coverage Affect Your Hospital Bill?

While most women will see further financial relief after the new benefits are added, others may still see high childbirth costs. Thanks to a combination of Medisave maternity packages, government subsidies and MediShield Life, women experiencing childbirth complications who are staying in B2 or C Wards may see their hospital bills heavily reduced.

With the new MediShield Life coverage, pregnancy complications will be covered under the inpatient hospitalisation benefit, which means that women can claim up to S$700 per day for the cost of normal Ward hospitalisation stays and up to S$1,200 per day for ICU hospitalisation costs. This is in addition to the existing Medisave Maternity Package (MMP), which offers withdrawal limits of up to $450 per day for daily hospital charges, S$750 for vaginal delivery and S$2,140 for Caesarean delivery along with a S$900 limit of pre-delivery expenses. Singaporean female citizens or permanent residents staying in Ward types B2+, B2 or C also qualify for subsidies, which can be up to 80% of their total bill. If, according to the Health Ministry, 80% of women who stayed in B2/C Wards paid less than S$500 out of pocket for pregnancy complications before this coverage, this means that for some women out of pocket costs could be completely reduced.

This table shows the average cost of normal vs. c-section birth in Singapore based on ward type

However, women who stay at B1 or A1 Wards or private hospitals may still pay a significant amount in out of pocket costs. Women who give birth in a B1 or A1 Ward can expect to pay on average between S$3,769 and S$8,208 for an uncomplicated normal delivery. Private hospital costs tend to be up to 2 times greater. However, a complicated childbirth can increase your hospital bill up to S$17,220, bringing your out-of pocket-costs to several thousand dollars even after you use your Medisave withdrawals. Thus, women may need to make a difficult choice if they want to opt for a lower Ward during their delivery in order to save money. However, if you are adamant about staying in a A/B1 ward but are unable to pay the bill out of pocket, you can consider taking out a personal loan to finance this expense. While this may increase your total bill due to f the cost of interest, you may have a more comfortable experience than if you had to stay in a hospital ward you're not comfortable. Furthermore, personal loans charge lower interest rates than credit cards, making them better for a large expense that you are unable to repay within one month.

How to Reduce Pregnancy Complications

Medical complications are not always avoidable, but there are several things you can do to reduce the risk of problematic pregnancy. The first is to stay as healthy as possible during your pregnancy. You should not smoke, drink or do drugs. You should also aim to maintain a healthy and balanced diet and stay active. Women who have certain conditions should speak to their doctor when they become pregnant to see if there need to be changes to medication or lifestyle. You should also do what you can to reduce high blood pressure and try to avoid getting sick. Pregnancy is a complicated matter and every woman has different experiences. However staying as healthy as possible can at least reduce the risk of complications and make you and your baby's life that much better.

Anastassia Evlanova

Anastassia is a Senior Research Analyst at ValueChampion Singapore, focusing on insurance. She holds an International Business Management diploma and a B.A. in Economics from New York University. Her prior working experience includes work in the capital markets sector.

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