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Healthcare In Singapore: A Comparison To The US Healthcare System

Both Singapore and the US have public and private health insurance, but the way their healthcare systems are organized is very different. All Singapore Citizens qualify for a public healthcare plan, while in the US, individuals are required to find their own private insurance.

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These differences and more can be very confusing, especially if you’ve lived in the US your whole life and know little to nothing about how Singapore healthcare works. Enter, Pacific Prime!

We are here to clarify things for you with this simplified comparison of the two countries by breaking down how financing is structured in both Singapore and the US Healthcare Systems.

So if you’re an expat or digital nomad interested in living abroad in Singapore, let’s jump right in!

The Healthcare System In Singapore Compared To In The USA

The public Healthcare System in Singapore is funded by the government, compared to the US where it is funded by private insurance companies. All Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents qualify for public health insurance in SG, but few Americans qualify for public insurance in the US.

Singapore Urban Vista: Healthcare Comparison

Singapore’s healthcare system is one of the best in the world with top-rated physicians, a phenomenal funding system organized by the government, and excellent facilities.

If you’re new to how their system works, we are going to teach you the basics in the next section by comparing it to the United States system.

A Comparison Of Healthcare Financing In Singapore And The US

Healthcare in Singapore is largely financed by taxes and the social security contributions from Citizens and Permanent Residents. This is very different from the United States where the majority of medical fees are covered by private health insurance companies.

While there are both public and private insurance options in both countries, the way they are structured and funded is very different. To make it easy for you, we’ve explained each below.

It may be helpful as well for you to learn more about Singapore’s tax system and tax rates.

Singapore Healthcare System

The Singapore healthcare system is financed by a public scheme paid into by Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents. Expats and foreigners, however, may not qualify to participate in Medisave, so they must acquire private health insurance, such as from Pacific Prime.

We will explain both the public and private insurance options in detail below.

Public Health Insurance In Singapore

Singapore’s public healthcare system is funded by taxes and a mandatory social security savings scheme individuals and employers are required to pay into called the Central Provident Fund (CPF). Most healthcare costs are financed through three programs: Medisave, Medishield, and Medifund.

All Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents set aside funds in a Central Provident Fund account that contributes to their retirement-related expenses and payouts and their Medisave Account.

Depending on an individual’s age, they will contribute jointly with their employer anywhere from 12.5% – 37% of their total monthly wages into their Central Provident Fund account.

Let’s look at how the three public health insurance programs work in Singapore:

Medisave 

A part of your CPF account funds your Medisave account. This automatically pays for a basic health insurance plan that covers most routine outpatient checkups, operations, and hospitalizations. If your medical expenses become higher than normal, you will begin using your Medishield account.

Medishield

Medishield is a public health insurance plan Citizens and Permanent Residents are automatically opted into, and it will cover big medical expenses beyond regular healthcare.

Medifund

If your medical expenses become even more costly than can be funded by your Medishield account, you can apply for a Medifund account. This specifically targets the elderly and children of low-income families.

Urban Daytime, Singapore: Healthcare Comparison.

If you are an expat or foreigner and are not considered a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, then you will not qualify to create a Central Provident Fund account or have the ability to take advantage of the public insurance programs. If this applies to you, private health insurance is your best option.

Private Health Insurance In Singapore

Most expats in Singapore prefer to use private health insurance since they don’t qualify for public insurance and can’t afford to pay for all health expenses out of pocket. Using private health insurance can lower overall healthcare costs and grant access to private hospitals.

Even though the public healthcare system in Singapore is rated so well, expats and digital nomads often can’t participate in their CPF scheme. Though this sounds disappointing, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Having private health insurance opens the door to luxury private hospitals and facilities and it improves your ability to find English-speaking physicians.

Knowing that the cost of healthcare in Singapore is rising, having private health insurance can save you money in the long run, and it can be more affordable than private healthcare in the US. Even if you do have a basic healthcare plan from an employer, it can be beneficial to have additional private coverage.

Private insurance can cover the following expenses sometimes not included in basic plans:

  • Critical Illness
  • Dental Care
  • Vision Care
  • Maternity Coverage
  • Dependent Coverage

Unlike a basic, public healthcare plan, private insurance can be customized to your specific needs. Do you already have pre-existing conditions? Are you a senior? Do you travel regularly? Private insurance can help you craft a plan to meet your needs.

Here are several plan examples that Pacific Prime Singapore offers our clients:

Go here to find more health insurance plans we offer. With over 20 years of experience serving as an international broker, we know how to help you find the right medical coverage you need.

You can also check out our list of public and private hospitals in Singapore so that you can research which one might serve your needs best. You may want to select one located in one of the best places to live in Singapore for expats and digital nomads.

US Healthcare System

The US Healthcare System is funded by public and private health insurance. Public insurance is generally financed by state and federal governments through programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Those who don’t qualify for these programs pay for private health insurance.

Public Health Insurance In The US

First, let’s look into the public insurance programs funded by the government. Individuals must apply for these programs and meet certain criteria, usually in regard to income and age. If they qualify, the government covers their health insurance fees. They must prove their eligibility regularly.

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Much of the following information comes from the Commonwealth Fund.

Here are the US public health insurance programs:

Medicare

Medicare provides health coverage for individuals over 65 years old, qualifying individuals under age 65 who have long-term disabilities or end-stage renal disease, and voluntary outpatient prescription drug coverage through some private carriers.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a state government program that provides health insurance coverage for low-income families (including pregnant women, infants, and children under the age of 18), the blind, people with disabilities, and anyone else who meets their local state’s criteria.

Children’s Health Insurance Program

CHIP, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, was created in 1997 and provides health insurance for children of low-income families who earn too much money to meet the eligibility requirements for Medicaid but don’t earn enough to pay for private health insurance.

This program can be an extension of Medicaid or it can be a separate program, depending on the local state’s structure.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)

Also known as Obamacare, the ACA Act expanded the US Government’s funding and regulation of nationwide health care by requiring Americans to get health insurance, allowing children to remain on their parent’s plan until age 26, opening markets to offer more affordable insurance for low-income individuals and families, and extending Medicaid eligibility.

You can also learn how the Affordable Care Act affected employee benefit packages for businesses.

These programs can cover most or all healthcare costs, depending on the qualifications of the individual or family.

Private Health Insurance In The US

When it comes to private health insurance programs in the US, there are thousands of companies individuals can choose from, ranging from large to small, local to nationwide. Two-thirds of Americans rely on private insurance as their primary coverage for healthcare treatments.

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Most often, employers offer employee benefits that include a health insurance plan for the employees and their dependents. Typically both the employer and the employee pay a portion of the monthly premiums, and the employee pays a co-pay at each doctor visit.

Although, it is rising as a trend in employee benefits for employers to cover the entire insurance premium.

The Affordable Care Act requires private insurance to cover these essential health benefits:

  1. Doctor Visits
  2. Emergency Services
  3. Hospitalization
  4. Maternity and Newborn Care
  5. Mental Health Services
  6. Substance Use Disorder Treatment
  7. Prescription Drugs
  8. Rehabilitative Services and Devices
  9. Laboratory Services
  10. Preventive and Wellness Services
  11. Chronic Disease Management
  12. Pediatric Services, including Dental and Vision Care

Singapore And US Differences And Similarities

Below are a few key differences and similarities between the ways Singapore and the USA finance their healthcare systems:

  1. While all Singaporean Citizens and Permanent Residents qualify for public health insurance, a minority of US Citizens qualify for their public health insurance.
  2. While public health insurance in the US is mostly for the elderly and the poor, public health insurance in Singapore is for everyone.
  3. While private insurance is less popular among Singaporeans, it is the most popular among US citizens.
  4. In both countries, individuals pay monthly into their insurance plan.
  5. In both countries, private health insurance alleviates medical burdens and provides customizable flexibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Singapore healthcare free?

Healthcare in Singapore is not free. Citizens and Permanent Residents are required to pay monthly allotments of their income into the government’s social security scheme. This automatically opts them into a basic healthcare plan, and a portion of the money they pay is used for their healthcare fees.

Conclusion

Now that you know how the healthcare systems in Singapore and the US compare, you are better informed to decide how to cover your healthcare when you move to Singapore.

To help yourself even further, check out Pacific Prime’s health insurance plan in Singapore and download our guide to public and private healthcare in Singapore today!

Further Reading: Learn about the best Singapore expat forums here.

Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime
Jantra Jacobs is a Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime with over 10 years of writing and editing experience. She writes and edits a diverse variety of online and offline copy, including sales and marketing materials ranging from articles and advertising copy to reports, guides, RFPs, and more.

Jantra curates and reports on the results of Pacific Prime’s monthly newsletters, as well as manages Pacific Prime’s Deputy Global CEO’s LinkedIn posts. Complemented by her background in business writing, Jantra’s passion for health, insurance, and employee benefits helps her create engaging content - no matter how complex the subject is.

Growing up as a third-culture kid has given her a multicultural perspective that helps her relate to expats and their families while 8 years of working remotely have given her unique insight into hybrid work arrangements and enthusiasm for employee benefits.
Jantra Jacobs
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