InsuranceAAM difference between local and expat insurance

The difference between expat and local health insurance

Can locals benefit from additional health insurance? Why would expats need ‘special’ insurance? This article aims to simplify the options available for all.

The Economist Intelligence unit 2020 worldwide cost of living survey¹ listed Singapore, jointly with Hong Kong and Osaka as the most expensive city to live in.

A plethora of findings consistently ranks Singapore highly for the myriad benefits available here, including its exemplary healthcare facilities. Both expats and the local population have access to some of the world’s most reliable services and facilities on their doorstep. But not everyone knows how expensive it can be without adequate cover. The Singapore government’s Ministry of Health² website provides the indicative rates for various types of surgeries. The following table shows the amount one can expect to pay for a removal of appendix surgery without complications.


AAM insurance hospital fees difference.jpg


A review of these figures immediately reveals that:

  • If you are eligible to pay subsidised fees, you can reduce your hospital bills significantly.
  • Private hospitals are much more expensive than their public counterparts.

Some expats move to Singapore from a country where medical cover is paid for by the government and may not be aware that isn’t the case in Singapore. Expats may use both public and private hospitals. However, they are not eligible to get the benefits of Singapore’s subsidised healthcare system. This is only available for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents (PRs).

Ensure you have adequate protection

Given the fact that medical fees are expensive, it is highly advisable that both Singaporeans and expats buy an adequate level of health insurance. Every Singapore citizen and PR is covered by MediShield Life³, the country’s basic health insurance plan. It is not necessary to apply for this health insurance coverage. The process is automatic. Insurance premiums are paid directly from the individual’s CPF Medisave account.

Although, the insurance coverage provided by MediShield Life protects every Singapore citizen and PR, the benefits that it provides are restricted in certain ways. For example, the insured person is only entitled to a Class B2 or C ward in a public hospital. Individuals who want superior facilities can opt for an Integrated Shield Plan (IP).

IPs are offered by seven approved private insurers. By paying an additional premium, Singaporeans can increase their medical coverage. At times, selecting an IP can be complicated as there are a host of add-ons that offer various levels of additional benefits. To overcome this issue, it is possible to opt for a Standard Integrated Shield Plan⁴. This plan offers the same benefits across insurers, making comparison easy.

There are several options for expats looking for health insurance coverage in Singapore. An international policy can provide you with a range of benefits. When you are selecting a policy, keep the following points in mind:

  • Understand the various types of benefits that the policy provides. If you travel overseas from Singapore on a regular basis, ensure that the costs for repatriation are covered. Similarly, the medical expenses that you may incur in the country that you travel to should also be covered.
  • Insurers often exclude pre-existing conditions from the scope of the policy. If you suffer from any medical conditions at the time when you are buying the policy, you should clarify this issue. Remember to be as specific as possible. You don’t want an unpleasant surprise when you make a claim.
  • Family cover is also available.

In many instances, employers provide their expat employees with health insurance coverage. You should study the benefits that this policy provides. You may find that it does not meet your needs. In that case, you would want to buy additional insurance, known as a ‘top up’.

The ‘top up’ plan that you purchase will allow you a higher reimbursement limit. You can also reduce the deductible amount. This is the sum that you must pay to the hospital before your insurance plan kicks in.

It is also useful to enquire if the health insurance will remain valid if you move back to your home country or if you are transferred out of Singapore.

At times, expats stay on in Singapore and change their status to that of a PR. In this situation, they would get the coverage provided by MediShield Life. If your status is likely to change from expat to PR, it is a good idea to check with your insurer about how this would affect your policy.

Why getting professional advice is essential

Every individual has different health insurance needs. It is important to understand your specific requirements before finalising a policy.

If you travel frequently with work, it is also important to check that your policy covers this. For example, many insurers exclude the US from their coverage or charge additional premiums because of the high medical costs.

If you would like to arrange a complimentary consultation to review your health insurance needs, visit or call 6653 6652.





Important information

This document/article should not be construed as an offer, solicitation of an offer, or a recommendation to transact in any products mentioned herein. The information does not take into account the specific investment objectives, financial situation or particular needs of any person. Advice should be sought from a licensed wealth manager regarding the suitability of the investment product before making a commitment to purchase the investment product. Whilst we have taken all reasonable care to ensure that the information contained in this document is not untrue or misleading at the time of publication, we cannot guarantee its accuracy or completeness. Any opinion or estimate contained in this document is subject to change without notice. The above report may contain data obtained from third parties and as such we cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. AAM advisory Pte Ltd is licensed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore, FA Licence no 100032

Book a complimentary financial review with one of our wealth managers.