Integrated Shield Plans can pay for your entire Class A ward stay, but Singaporeans should think twice before using them.
There are many options for an Integrated Shield Plan (IP), to complement MediShield Life. With the right insurance policies – and some riders – you can even go to a Class A ward in a private hospital, and pay nothing out of pocket. Before you make that decision though, there are some factors to consider:
What Is An IP?
IPs are insurance policies sold by private insurers, and they are designed to complement MediShield Life. The key point to note is that MediShield Life only covers you for Class B2 or Class C wards, whereas IPs can cover you for up to Class A1 wards.
IPs can also be bought with riders – these remove the co-payment necessary for hospitalisation expenses. For example, if your hospital bills come to S$7,000, you would usually pay around S$700 (the co-pay is just 10 per cent of the bill, plus or minus a few costs that may not be covered). With a rider, this can be reduced to S$0.
You can view the list of insurers providing IPs here.
Think Before Going For Class A Wards
Many Singaporeans are happy to go all out, and purchase the most expensive IPs. This allows them to stay in comfy single bedder wards, consult the doctor of their choice, and (for those who believe it) receive faster or better treatment in private hospitals.
Some people who have purchased riders immediately default to Class A wards, as they don’t have to pay anything. But doing this may make you lose out, because:
- There are cash incentives for choosing a lower ward
- You may have trouble switching back to subsidised treatment
- You are indirectly driving up your own premiums
Some Plans Award Cash Incentives for Choosing Lower Wards
If you buy a rider, some insurers will give you a cash incentive for picking a lower ward. This varies between insurers, but can be up to S$250 a day.
This can come to a considerable savings, if you’re in the hospital for long periods such as two weeks (that’s S$3,500!)
By choosing a lower ward, you can utilise the cash incentives to help pay for your daily expenses, or those of your loved ones who come to the hospital every day.
The payout can also be used on supplements and health products to help you get back on your feet quicker.
You May Not Be Able To Switch Back To Subsidised Treatment
Different insurers have different approaches to post-hospitalisation treatment. Some insurers continue to cover you for up to a year after hospital treatment, whereas others use a dollar limit instead (e.g. you continue to receive coverage, until you’ve reached S$1 million in medical bills).
It’s important to know these limits. For example, in the event of a stroke, you may continue to need treatment for the rest of your life. This may extend far beyond the period of post-hospitalisation treatment.
More importantly, you should be aware that switching from unsubsidised treatment (e.g. a Class A ward in a private hospital) back to subsidised treatment is not automatic. It’s generally not allowed for unsubsidised patients to switch back to subsidised treatment, as this would increase the wait times on less affluent patients in government hospitals.
It’s not a blanket ban – the government will consider your request to switch back to subsidised treatment on a case-by-case basis, taking certain factors, such as your income, into consideration.
But ultimately, you have to consider what happens if you’re not allowed to switch back. Does your post-hospitalisation coverage suffice, and are you happy to bear the cost of unsubsidised treatment for the rest of your life?
A simple way around this is to be selective. Use the best coverage your insurer can provide, in the event of one-off treatment. For example, treating a broken leg, or appendicitis. You don’t need to worry about running out of post-hospitalisation coverage, for these issues.
But if you’re facing a chronic problem, maybe opt for subsidised treatment instead; even if your policy allows you a fancier ward.
You Are Indirectly Driving Up Your Own Premiums
Remember that premium rates are not fixed when you get your IP; they can still go up later.
At the rate Singaporeans are using their IPs and riders however, premiums are set to go sky high. This is due to a condition known as medical inflation – because they don’t have to pay, insured Singaporeans overuse healthcare.
They pick the best wards, and doctors don’t hesitate to order a barrage of tests (doctors would rather be safe than sorry).
This drives up medical costs, which in turn causes premiums to climb. Besides being more expensive for you, remember that higher medical costs hit the poorest Singaporeans the hardest.
Or, you could just opt for an IP that only covers up to B1 wards. It’s also quite comfortable, and premiums are much more affordable.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.