You can now avail of a new Integrated Shield Plan, which covers hospital stays in class B1 wards. Is it worth the upgrade?
Insurance companies in Singapore are now offering a new B1 health insurance plan, which covers hospitalisation in class B1 wards. This has caused a bit of a stir, because up till now it was understood that insurance only covers class C and B2 wards.
But is it worth upgrading, considering premiums are higher? What are the benefits of a B1 health insurance coverage?
What is an Integrated Shield Plan?
You can complement your MediShield Life coverage with an Integrated Shield Plan. This is a form of optional private insurance, which complements your MediShield life. Integrated Shield Plans can be paid from your MediSave, so you don’t need to tap into your bank account to pay the premiums.
You can purchase one of these plans from a licensed Financial Advisor.
However, note that premiums will vary between insurance companies. It is possible for two plans with the same benefits to have different prices. This is because each insurer evaluates your health risks differently (e.g. high blood pressure may be considered a higher risk factor to one insurer than it is to another).
This means you should compare premiums before picking one.
What’s the Difference Between the New B1 Plan and other Integrated Shield Plans?
It is the first plan to cover hospitalisation in class B1 wards. Hospital wards are divided into classes: C, B2, B1, and A. Most insurance plans – as well as basic MediShield Life – will only pay for hospitalisation in class C and B2 wards. The new plan is the first of its kind to provide payouts for B1 class wards.
Note that this new B1 insurance plan covers only government hospitals. It does not cover private hospitals, regardless of the ward class involved.
The claim limits will also increase under the new plan. For most insurance plans that cover C and B2 wards, the maximum claim per day is $700. For the Intensive Care Unit, the maximum claim per day is $1,200. Under the new B1 plan, the maximum claim per day is $1,700 in the B1 ward, and $2,900 in the ICU.
Another example of a rising claim limit is kidney dialysis. Under MediShield Life, the claim limit is usually $1,000 per month. Under the new B1 plan, the claim limit is $2,750 per month. Kidney dialysis often comes to around $2,500 a month, so the new plan could wipe out the cost altogether.
The downside is that the new plan will cost more than basic plans, which only cover C and B2 wards. It is impossible for us to tell you how much exactly; as mentioned above, premiums vary significantly based on the each individual. But in general, premiums for new plan will be around.
For persons aged 21 to 25 – approx. $245 per year
For persons aged 36 to 40 – approx. $377 per year
For persons aged 56 to 60 – approx. $768 per year
You can compare this to your current premiums, to get a sense of how much more (or less) you’d be paying. Note that, after two years, the insurers may raise the premiums.
The premiums also differ between the five insurers that offer the new plan (AIA, Singlife, Great Eastern, Prudential, and NTUC Income.) You should make inquiries with all five, and find the cheapest option.
Why is a B1 Ward a Big Deal?
This comes down to personal preference. A B1 ward is smaller (four beds instead of six), so there is generally less noise. There’s fewer visitors coming in to see other patients. Like many B2 wards, a B1 ward is air-conditioned; most C class wards are cooled with fans. A B1 ward also has televisions. Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is that you get to choose your doctor.
With C and B2 wards, the doctors you consult with can change on a daily basis – it is just whoever gets assigned to you. With B1 wards you can choose a specific doctor.
As to whether this is worth paying for, it’s a matter of your personal preference. Does it matter to you that you see the exact doctor you like? Do you care whether you have access to TV? Are you bothered by sharing a ward with too many people?
If none of this seems important to you, you should consider giving this upgrade a pass.
What Happens If You Already Have a Private B1 Plan?
Some of you may already have private insurance policies, which provide hospitalisation pay outs for B1 class wards. You already have these benefits, so the main reason you’d consider switching is if it means lower premiums. However, that is not necessarily true.
If you abandon your existing insurance policy, and apply for the new B1 policy, your health will be assessed again. If you have grown much older, or have developed injuries or other conditions since first getting your policy, these will now be factored into your premiums. If you’re unlucky, this could make your new premiums even higher than your current policy.
Make sure you understand what the new costs will be before switching. Also, remember that the insurers have committed to the premiums only for the next two years. They may rise after that.
Overall, is the New B1 Plan Worth It?
To us, the benefits of having a B1 ward over a B2 or C class ward seems minor. But then again, we’re not the type who care whether we get to choose our doctor, or watch TV in hospital. And it is nice to have a higher claim limit, but it’s not often that we reach the existing limits anyway (although you may have health conditions that make it different for you).
What puts us off is the fact that premiums are not fixed. We do not know what they will be adjusted to after two years; what may seem affordable now may not be later. And the benefits seem a little thin in the face of that risk.
If your insurance coverage isn’t enough to cover your hospital bills, you can use SingSaver.com.sg’s free comparison tools to compare personal loans for medical costs.
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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.