MediShield: Health Coverage Renewed

Health InsuranceYou never know when you might get sick or get injuries in an accident. The cost of major medical treatment can be huge. Many countries offer their citizens public health insurance to cover basic medical treatment, but it is usually not enough.

You still have to pay for the balance from your own pocket unless you have private insurance. However, many people cannot afford to pay for private insurance, which can be a problem.

What is MediShield?

MediShield is the public health insurance program in Singapore managed by the Central Provident Fund Board. Even permanent residents are required to pay for MediShield. The only exceptions are those who really cannot pay for it.

Trying to avoid paying it even if you can afford it can land you in prison. The money goes into individual Medisave accounts, which pay for the MediShield premiums. In return, everybody gets basic health coverage at public hospitals when they need it. It sounds good in principle, but the reality is very different.

Is it enough?

Like most public health programs, there are many problems with MediShield. The most important is the low claim limits. It is usually not enough to pay for even medical expenses. Another problem is you have to pay up to 20% of the total bill before you can claim for MediShield.

In addition, people who are too old, or who have pre-existing diseases like diabetes or cancer cannot claim. As a result, those who can afford it get private insurance; however, those who cannot afford it only hope they will not get sick or hurt.

The Singapore government came up with a new plan called MediShield Life. It will have higher claim limits, no exclusions and better benefits. More people will get the health coverage they need without the high cost. You will have to pay more for MediShield Life to fund better coverage, but the government will subsidise the additional contribution for four years after it takes effect on November 1, 2015.

What are MediShield Integrated Plans?

Integrated plans are private insurance plans you can use to cover the balance of your medical bills when you reach the limits of your MediShield and later, MediShield Life. You do not have to pay for MediShield separately.

The good thing about MediShield Integrated Plans is you can use the funds in your Medisave account to pay part of the private insurance premiums. This means better protection from high medical bills at lower costs.

You get better coverage with the new public health insurance system. With private insurance supplementing your public insurance, you further minimise expenses.