Healthcare in Singapore: Everything You Need to Know
If you ask Singaporean citizens why they love living in Singapore, one of the most prevalent answers would be the country’s healthcare system.
In fact, Singapore’s healthcare system has been considered one of the best in the world. In the Asia-Pacific region, the country has become the medical hub.
If you’re planning to move to Singapore, you probably have a lot of questions about medical care here. Some of the ones you may be asking are “Is healthcare free in Singapore?” “How does the system work?” and “Do I need to get insurance?”
To help you in this matter, here’s everything you need to know about healthcare in Singapore.
Is healthcare free in Singapore?
Healthcare in Singapore isn’t completely free. However, with health insurance, citizens and non-citizens alike can enjoy affordable rates for medical products and services.
How much does healthcare cost in Singapore?
To give you an idea of the average healthcare cost in Singapore, refer to the table below listing common treatments and their price ranges, as provided by the Ministry of Health (MOH).
|Treatment||Private Hospital||Public Hospital (Without Subsidy)||Public Hospital (With Subsidy)|
|Head Injury||3,355–7,328 SGD||1,1512,159 SGD||761–1,950 SGD|
|Respiratory Infections or Inflammations with Complications||8,816–22,970 SGD||2,866–7,012 SGD||1,062–2,084 SGD|
|Brain Stroke with Complications||3,760–8,970 SGD||3,718–7,424 SGD||1,483–2,561 SGD|
|Kidney Failure with Complications||5,946–20,975 SGD||2,700–7,002 SGD||1,248–2,528 SGD|
|Emergency Expansion of Blocked Heart Vessels||37,075–49,230 SGD||16,053–25,863 SGD||5,872–8,694 SGD|
All the prices mentioned in the table already include the doctor’s consultation fee and tests. Take note that these prices can differ in reality, depending on several other factors such as the type of ward.
As you can see from the table, government subsidies can cover around 50% to 80% of the bill. Once the subsidies are in effect, citizens and PRs can use their preferred insurance plan to help cover the remaining cost.
How does Singapore’s healthcare system work?
The way Singapore’s healthcare system works is that it’s governed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and consists of two main sectors: the government-run, publicly-funded universal healthcare and the private sector.
Additionally, both sectors cover a wide variety of healthcare services—from primary care to specialty centers.
For more information, let’s break down each sector and its various services.
Ministry of Health (MOH)
Simply put, the Ministry of Health is in charge of the country’s healthcare system. Their primary goal is to constantly improve the system for the betterment of everyone.
To achieve this goal, they formulate policies for the development and regulation of all products and services. They also make sure that all these products and services are of the highest quality and accessible to the citizens.
As of right now, the MOH has seven statutory boards, namely
- Health Promotion Board: responsible for preventing diseases and promoting healthier lifestyle habits
- Health Sciences Authority: in charge of applying medical, pharmaceutical, and scientific expertise to improve public health and safety
- Singapore Dental Council
- Singapore Medical Council
- Singapore Nursing Board
- Singapore Pharmacy Council
- Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners Board
Public Healthcare in Singapore
Singapore’s public healthcare sector is comprised of three main clusters:
- National University Health System (NUHS)
- National University Hospital
- Alexandra Hospital
- JurongHealth Campus
- National University Cancer Institute
- National University Heart Center
- National University for Oral Health
- National Healthcare Group (NHG)
- Tan Tock Seng Hospitals
- National Center for Infectious Diseases
- National Healthcare Group Polyclinics
- Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
- Woodlands Health
- Institute of Mental Health
- Yishun Community Hospital
- National Skin Center
- Admiralty Medical Center
- National Healthcare Group Diagnostics
- National Healthcare Group Pharmacy
- National Healthcare Group NHG College
- Singapore Health Services (SingHealth)
- Singapore General Hospital
- KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
- Changi General Hospital
- Sengkang General Hospital
- Singapore National Eye Center
- National Cancer Center Singapore
- National Heart Center Singapore
- National Dental Center Singapore
- National National Neuroscience Institute
- Bright Vision Hospital
- Outram Community Hospital
- Sengkang Community Hospital
All these three clusters work closely with the MOH so as to ensure that the healthcare services they provide to their clients are always the best.
In addition to these clusters, the public healthcare system features emergency medical services (EMS). EMS includes ambulance services and paramedic services.
EMS is provided by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), which is Singapore’s nationally funded organization that deals with all kinds of emergency services—from firefighting to technical rescue to medical emergencies.
Private Healthcare in Singapore
Singapore’s private healthcare is a thriving sector, despite the high costs and the existence of affordable public healthcare. That said, it’s understandable why private healthcare is a popular choice among citizens and permanent residents (PRs).
What is the advantage of using a private clinic?
Here are a few advantages of using a private clinic or healthcare facility in Singapore:
- The waiting time in private facilities is relatively shorter than in public ones.
- Private hospitals and clinics feature rooms and wards with a luxurious aesthetic and feel, which patients find attractive.
- Your relationship with your doctor will also feel more personalized since private doctors can spend more time with you and their other patients.
Aside from Singaporeans who can afford it, private healthcare also appeals to non-PR ex-pats. This is because they’re not eligible for any government subsidies, so they have to resort to private healthcare insurance.
Types of Healthcare Services in Singapore
No matter which healthcare sector in Singapore you choose, you’ll be able to enjoy various medical services. Here are the three types of healthcare services available in Singapore:
Primary Healthcare Services
- Outpatient medical treatments
- Health screening
- Pharmaceutical services
- Inpatient and outpatient services from public and community hospitals
- Hospitals for women and children
- Psychiatric hospitals
- Medical specialties, including advanced surgical procedures, at private hospitals
National Specialty Centers
- The National Skin Center
- The National Neuroscience Institute
- The National Eye Center
- The National Heart Center
- The Singapore National Dental Center
- The Singapore National Cancer Center
What are the 3 Ms in Singapore’s health insurance system?
The three primary companies in Singapore’s health insurance system (also known as the 3Ms) are
- MediShield Life
Medisave allows you to set aside a part of your income—usually around 8% to 10.5%—so that you can pay for your personal medical expenses or your dependents’.
This scheme puts a limit on how much you can withdraw so that your account will still have enough savings for when you’ve reached old age.
MediShield Life is best suited for big expenses. You can use this healthcare program to pay larger bills and other expensive outpatient treatments like kidney dialysis.
An endowment fund set up by the government, MediFund provides a safety net for patients who are having a hard time paying off their hospital bills despite having several subsidies, MediSave, and MediShield Life.
Other Healthcare Schemes and Subsidies
If you’re a PR in Singapore, you’ll be able to enjoy most of the same benefits as Singaporean citizens. But if you still need more help in covering your bills, there are other schemes and subsidies that can help you out.
Check out the following healthcare schemes and subsidies that may be applicable to PRs:
- Vaccination and Childhood Developmental Screening Subsidies
- Subsidies for vaccinations and Childhood Development Screenings (CDS) at polyclinics and Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) GP clinics
- CareShield Life
- Long-term care insurance scheme that provides financial support in the event of disability or old age
- Long-term care insurance scheme intended for severe disability, especially during old age
- Subsidies for Services and Drugs at Public Healthcare Institutions
- Subsidy for Singaporean citizens: up to 80%
- For PRs: up to 50%
- Foreign Domestic Worker (FDW) Levy Concession for Persons with Disabilities
- Supports households who need to hire an FDW to care for seniors or persons with disabilities
- If eligible, the household will pay a lower concessionary FDW levy (60 SGD monthly).
- Caregivers Training Grant (CTG)
- Supports caregivers of senior citizens and people with disabilities
- Helps caregivers attend training courses to better equip themselves
- Subsidies of up to 200 SGD per eligible care recipient per year
- Subsidies for Government-Funded Intermediate and Long-Term Care (LTC) Services
- LTC services include chronic sick services, nursing home services, inpatient hospice palliative care services, psychiatric rehabilitation homes, and psychiatric sheltered homes.
- Subsidy for Singaporean citizens: up to 75%
- For PRs: up to 50%
- Enhanced Screen for Life
- Subsidized screenings for diseases and other conditions for citizens and PRs
How do I become a subsidized patient in Singapore?
Every Singaporean citizen or PR can become a subsidized patient in Singapore—even if they already have private insurance.
To become a subsidized patient, approach the staff of the public hospital or clinic. They will assess your request, taking into consideration your financial situation and whether or not you can continue to pay the unsubsidized rates.
The staff might ask you for a referral from a CHAS clinic/polyclinic/hospital where you’re a subsidized patient. If they do, please be sure to prepare it.
If you really are struggling financially, the providers will be flexible and allow you to switch to the subsidized class.
Who is eligible for public healthcare programs in Singapore?
Only Singaporean citizens and PRs are eligible for public healthcare programs.
Government subsidies and other public insurance will help cover their medical bills should the need arise.
If you are a foreigner or a non-PR ex-pat in Singapore, you won’t have access to subsidized healthcare. Because of this, you’ll have to find and choose a health insurance plan from a private company.