Expats will find that the standard of healthcare in Singapore is exemplary. The city-state is consistently ranked among the best-performing nations in the world and was appointed the top system in Asia in a report by the World Health Organisation.
Both public and private sector services are available, and though expats often debate the merits of each, it’s safe to say that both function efficiently and professionally. More often than not, foreigners will use private entities for primary care, but public hospitals for emergency services and more complex care.
Private care is more expensive than public care, but many are happy to pay the higher price in exchange for minimal waiting times and more comfortable facilities. That said, many expats will argue that the waiting times associated with public and private care varies little.
Doctors and medical staff are almost always proficient in English, and facilities are world-class. Expats should note that international prescriptions are not valid in Singapore, and thus medications must be re-prescribed by a local doctor upon arrival; bring enough of a supply to last the first few months.
When it comes to health insurance, Singapore has implemented a somewhat unique system of universal coverage in which patients are expected to co-pay for a good deal of their medical expenses, but in return, they have access to the basic, affordable healthcare that’s needed most.
Unfortunately, only those expats who are permanent residents will have access to this care, while those on normal work passes will either need to take out insurance on their own or will need to negotiate to receive insurance through their employer.
Public healthcare in Singapore
Expats may be surprised to find that public hospitals and public polytechnics (outpatient clinics) are among the most respected institutions of their kind in the region. The more esteemed hospitals even receive those complicated cases that neighbouring countries aren’t equipped to handle.
That said, these facilities mainly cater to locals and permanent resident holders who are entitled to subsidised care, given their contribution to a national insurance scheme. Expats with work passes are not privy to these subsidies, and thus encounter similar rates in public facilities that they would find in private facilities.
Private healthcare in Singapore
Most expats prefer to utilise private healthcare facilities in Singapore, as the cost is only slightly higher than public facilities, but the service levels are assumed to be better and, as mentioned, the waiting times are assumed to be less (whether or not this is true is hard to say).
There are plenty of private hospitals, medical centres and individual practices in the city-state, expats must merely decide which is most convenient to them, and which aligns with their priorities.
It’s not necessary to have health insurance to take advantage of private facilities or professionals, and day-to-day healthcare costs can be surprisingly affordable. That said, it’s highly recommended expats take out some form of health insurance to cover costs associated with more complicated illnesses or an unexpected emergency.
Private hospitals in Singapore
Mount Elizabeth Hospital
3 Mount Elizabeth 228510
Tel: (65) 6737 2666
6A Napier Road 258500
Tel: (65) 6473 7222
Mount Alvernia Hospital (24 hr outpatient)
820 Thomson Road 574623
Tel: (65) 6347 6688
321 Joo Chiat Place427990
Tel:(65) 6344 7588
Thomson Medical Centre (24 hr outpatient)
339 Thomson Road 307677
Tel: (65) 6250 2222
Health insurance in Singapore
Only those expats who are permanent residents can take advantage of MediSave, a compulsory state insurance scheme that requires both employees and employers to make monthly contributions in exchange for hospital coverage.
Those expats with work passes will need to organise insurance either through their employer or individually and are not entitled to subsidised care. Most medium-sized and large companies in Singapore include health insurance in employment packages, and if the subject is not broached during contract negotiation, expats should inquire.
Both local and international insurance companies operate in Singapore, and a variety of plans and packages are on offer. Costs vary tremendously, and expats will need to evaluate each package offered by each service provider to find the best fit for them.
Health risks in Singapore
The two biggest health concerns for expats are likely to be sunburn and dehydration. The wall of heat and humidity that greets newly arrived expats when they first step out of the air-conditioned confines of the airport is hard to anticipate. It is vital to remain well hydrated and to use a sun-block in defence against the year-round summer weather.