Let’s face it - the term “affordable” has never been used to describe the medical costs in Singapore. Health insurance, in short, is essential to defray the huge medical bills that comes with hospitalisations, medical tests and many more. Full riders, which fully covers the medical cost, gives the assurance that you can have peace of mind without burning a hole in your pocket.

Thus, it’s not surprising for everyone to be up in arms over how they have to co-pay a minimum of 5% for new Integrated Shield Plans. A few questions have been floating around regarding the changes, and we’ve gathered the information for you to digest

I’m going to buy the full rider from today, does this affect me?

In a nutshell, yes. But do check with your insurer if the co-payment scheme is implemented with immediate effect. This is because insurers have up to a year to decide on the new riders that incorporate the co-payment scheme.

Regardless, all insurers must inform new policyholders that they will transit to the new co-payment scheme from 1 April 2021.

Will the minimum 5% co-payment be implemented for my existing policy?

For now, it’s a no. In a media query to TODAY, all six insurers offering the full rider for Integrated Shield plans have confirmed that the 5% co-payment will not affect existing policy holders.

Wait. What do you mean MINIMUM 5%?

Note that this is the minimum amount stipulated by the Government. This could vary depending on the insurer. Again, do a quick check with your insurer to find out what the co-payment amount is.

In short, you have to weigh the pros and cons, looking at the premium you’re paying against the possible co-payment that you’ll have to top-up.

Is there an upper limit to how much I'm co-paying?

There is an annual payment cap of $3,000. That means, on top of the annual premium you pay, you’ll need to factor potentially up to $3,000 for the co-payment amount.

Subsequent medical claims will be fully borne by the insurers. This, however, is still dependent on whether your claim goes through.

So does this mean my premium is lower because of co-payment?

Nothing has been set in stone yet. Premiums have seen an upward trend due to the increased medical costs, with insurers bearing the full brunt of it when a claim is made.

But insurers have been monitoring and adjusting its premium based on market trends. For example, Prudential has a claims-based pricing system that determines your premium based on the size of your claim.

Senior Minister of State for Health Chee Hong Tat was quoted in a Channel Newsasia report, stating that the Government expects the new riders to have lower premiums than full riders. This is a possibility and creates an incentive for consumers to convert to the co-payment scheme earlier.

Will we see a reduction in medical costs?

That is the endgame for the co-payment scheme. Theoretically, the co-payment scheme is meant to prevent the buffet mentality, which leads to a cycle of overconsumption and overcharging of medical services.

However, we cannot say for sure if the co-payment scheme will be effective. It might take a few years for you to see the effects. But at the very least, it creates a level of prudence before you agree to costly medical examinations that might not be necessary. This, in turn, will reduce the reliance on unnecessary medical services and prevent any overcharging situations.

Anything else I should be aware of?

Any pre-existing conditions that are covered prior to this ruling will not excluded when you make the switch. The only change is in the fact that you have to pay part of your medical bills even with a rider in place.

Bear advice

As we've mentioned, healthcare in Singapore is not exactly affordable. Getting a rider with your Integrated Shield Plan is prudent, mainly to ensure you do not bear the full brunt of the medical costs.

The co-payment system does transfer some of the costs back to the consumer. But when accidents happen, you won't want to be saddled with a four or even five-figure sum, versus a co-payment amount that caps at $3,000 per year.

That said, you should also look at additional health insurance, just to give yourself that extra peace of mind.

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GoBear team

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