A quick guide, or refresher for some, on how to navigate clinical options and cut back on your medical bills — something made trickier in these COVID-19 times.
We are all sluggishly moving along into Singapore’s “Circuit Breaker”, or stay-at-home directive. In these Coronavirus times, much of the focus has been on staying safe, building immunity and keeping healthy.
But what happens when after weeks of toeing the line and holding up at home, you suddenly develop and cough, sneeze or non-COVID-19 symptoms? What are your options and how much would they cost?
Most of all, what can you claim for and how do you go about it?
Healthcare options, compared
If you’re stepping out of your home to seek medical attention, you’re perfectly well within your rights to do so.
But before you do, there is an official online medical screening tool you could first check out if you suspect you are symptomatic. Other than that, for more severe cases like prolonged diarrhoea, a rash breakout or a sprained ankle, slap on a mask and make a beeline to your nearest polyclinic or GP of choice. You may wish to avoid hospitals in these times unless you don’t have a choice.
It would be perfectly understandable that you’re wary of being out and about, putting yourself directly in the path of possible virus-carriers. If you’re tech-savvy, in a non-emergency situation or can afford to wait for medicine to be delivered to you, try an e-consult with providers like Whitecoat, MyDoc, Homage or Doctor Anywhere (DA).
These setups are all regulated by the Ministry of Health (MOH) so you can rest assured that the doctors are legit. The interface of such e-consults are rather fuss-free: you set up an account for MyDoc and DA and browse the services to compare fees. Whitecoat charges between S$25 to S$50 per consult depending on peak or non-peak periods.
- General practitioners and polyclinics
Typically, subsidised clinics are the cheapest option for consultation and medicine. These neighbourhood polyclinics tend to be crowded, but COVID-19 times, ironically, might be the best to go as there’s no longer any need for bogus MCs.
Accident and Emergency departments of Government and Restructured Hospitals are also considered subsidised healthcare, but depending on the severity of your illness, you might end up paying a premium for visiting as hospital doctors tend to err on the side of caution by issuing tests (that you have to pay for) while they keep you under observation.
A level-up in terms of costs would be the chain and 24-hour clinics such as Unihealth or Healthway Medical Group that are scattered all over Singapore’s heartlands. Finally, the most expensive option would be private or specialist clinics, in premium areas such as Orchard Road or Central Business District (CBD).
You probably don’t have to pay the entire medical bill
Before you scamper off to the polyclinic, do check with your HR if your company’s employee benefits include medical outpatient visits.
Many organisations do offer claimable amount for doctor’s visits, with a cap on the fees. Remember to keep your original receipt for claims.
- Employer's group insurance
Others may have staff outpatient benefits under a Group Insurance Plan like AXA’s Group CliniCare Insurance; all you need to do before going to the doctor is to check the list of clinics or hospitals on their panel and select one most convenient to you. Just identify your organisation or show the staff medical card (if one is issued) and you won’t have to pay a dime.
Some of the panel clinics or hospitals that come under your employee outpatient benefits may have terms and conditions for claimable services, such as applicable timings or limited outpatient services. Or you might have to co-pay for treatment. Do check these limits to your benefits before you turn up at the clinic to avoid disappointment!
- Personal insurance claims
Alternatively, check if your health insurance also provides coverage for outpatient visits. Many personal accident plans cover clinic fees for conditions as a result of injury. Others, like Singlife’s Outpatient Medicare and Income’s Managed Healthcare System – Outpatient Plan specifically provides coverage to outpatient and emergency medical services at their panel clinics (with a cap for non-panel medical outlets).
If you have recently travelled back to Singapore and fallen ill, or if you’re a traveller stuck in Singapore; your travel cover may include outpatient medical fees as well. However, if you’re down with COVID-19, your insurance company might invoke the Force Majeure clause under pandemic and may not cover your illness.
- Complimentary tele-consultation by MHC Medical Network
While the above options are subjected to limitations, there exist one option where you don't have to pay your medical bills at all. As part the ongoing #SGUnited movement to support parties affected by COVID-19, MHC is offering complimentary tele-consultation services for chronic patients, with medication delivered to recipients' doorsteps in under 48 hours.
Accessing the medical services within is a simple matter of downloading the BetterHealth app on Apple's App Store or Google Play. Besides video consultations, you may also check out its 24/7 complimentary helpline for mental health support during these unsettling times.
Can I pay for outpatient treatment with Medisave?
At this point in time, Medisave does not pay out for outpatient clinic visits with the exception of vaccinations, screening tests, treatment for chronic illnesses and selected dental surgeries. Even then, there is also a cap on the claimable amounts.
If you’re in great health now and have no need for outpatient medical services at this point, it may be a good time to get your medical and health insurance in order.
Read these next:
How Much Do Health Screenings In Singapore Cost?
If I Get COVID-19, What Will I Need To Pay?
How Insurers and Banks Are Helping You Survive COVID-19 (Whether Quarantine or Debt)
Best Maid Insurance Promotions and Discounts
5 Ways to Cope With Financial Setbacks Hitting Singaporeans Hard Amid COVID-19