The Ministry of Health is responsible for the management of the healthcare system in Singapore. Ranked #6 in the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems in 2000, Singapore has one of the best healthcare systems in the world and is recognized as the leading medical hub in the Asia-Pacific region. Medical establishments in Singapore cater not only to locals and residents, but also to citizens of neighboring countries who travel to Singapore specifically for the excellent care. Many world-renowned medical centers, such as John Hopkins and The West Clinic, have also established themselves in Singapore.
One of the key principles in Singapore’s healthcare system is that no medical service is provided free of charge in order to mitigate over-utilization of healthcare services. Through a system of subsidies, compulsory savings, and price controls, the government aims to ensure affordability of healthcare within the public health system. While Singapore citizens and Singapore Permanent Residents are subsidized to a certain extent under the public healthcare system, foreigners working and living in the country are not covered under any subsidy schemes. Hence, it is highly recommended for those working and living in the country without Singapore citizenship or Permanent Resident status to ensure they are sufficiently covered under personal medical insurance schemes.
Singapore’s neighborhoods are designed to be “self-sustaining”, meaning basic services and amenities can be found in each local community. This means that healthcare services are readily available in most local neighborhoods, provided by a network of primary healthcare services across the island. Pharmacies can also be conveniently found in most neighborhoods and shopping malls.
HEALTHCARE FUNDING FOR RESIDENTS
The Singapore healthcare system is funded by a combination of direct government funding as well as individual compulsory savings schemes. As long as you are a working Singaporean citizen or Permanent Resident, a portion of your income will be deducted monthly and put towards a compulsory savings fund (CPF) that you can use to service your housing, medical, and retirement needs.
The Central Provident Fund (CPF) is a compulsory comprehensive savings plan for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents in the workforce. It is an employment based savings schemes with employees and employers contributing a mandated amount to the fund. The CPF is used to fund the housing, healthcare, and retirement needs of citizens and residents. Contributions to the CPF are divided into three accounts:
PRIMARY HEALTHCARE SERVICES
Singapore’s primary healthcare is provided through a network of outpatient polyclinics and private medical practitioners’ clinics situated within local communities. There are approximately 18 polyclinics, and 1500 private medical clinics island-wide providing primary healthcare services. The healthcare professionals in these facilities include general practitioners and nurses, who are the first point of contact for patients seeking medical attention, and can offer referral services to hospitals or specialists for patients requiring further treatments. These facilities offer outpatient medical treatments, immunizations, health screenings, as well as diagnostic and pharmaceutical services.
Consultation fees may vary depending on which private medical clinic you go to. For polyclinics, the average consultation fee is around $8 for Singapore citizens, $12 for Permanent Residents, and $16 for foreigners. With basic primary healthcare being relatively affordable, many people choose to pay for these out of their own pocket, and only seek insurance coverage for inpatient treatments/hospitalisation.
PUBLIC & PRIVATE HOSPITALS
As of 2012, there are 25 hospitals and specialty centers in Singapore. The 8 public hospitals comprise of 6 general hospitals, a women’s and children’s hospital, and a mental institute. General hospitals provide multi-disciplinary acute inpatient and specialist outpatient treatments, as well as 24-hour emergency services.
Private hospitals in Singapore also offer exceptional standards of medical service and care. The private healthcare sector in Singapore caters to those who are privately insured, foreign patients, or public patients who can afford the high fees of private care. The capacity of the private healthcare sector is also used to reduce waiting times in the public sector. The private sector is largely run by 3 groups: Parkway Holdings, Pacific Healthcare Holdings, and Raffles Medical Group.
Medical expenses for hospitalization and more complicated treatments can add up to pretty hefty sums, especially in the private sector. While medical subsidies are available for Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents, many still decide to purchase personal insurance plans for additional coverage.
HELPFUL HEALTHCARE RESOURCES
Tips from experts on getting health insurance while overseas.
Ministry of Health Medical Directory - This medical directory allows you to search for clinics, hospitals, laboratories, and nursing homes in Singapore.
GoBear - The first health insurance comparison website in Singapore, GoBear provides free comparisons of over 130 health insurance products, allowing you to compare and choose a plan that suits your needs.