Healthcare in Singapore

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Healthcare in Singapore is mainly under the responsibility of the Singapore Government's Ministry of Health. Singapore generally has an efficient and widespread system of healthcare. Singapore was ranked 6th in the World Health Organisation's ranking of the world's health systems in the year 2000.[1] Bloomberg ranked Singapore’s healthcare system the most efficient in the world in 2014.[2] The Economist Intelligence Unit placed Singapore 2nd out of 166 countries for health-care outcomes. [3] Bloomberg Global Health Index of 163 countries ranked Singapore the 4th healthiest country in the world and first in Asia.[4]


The Bowyer Block at the Singapore General Hospital now houses the SGH Museum which was officially opened in May 2005.

Singapore has a non-modified universal healthcare system where the government ensures affordability of healthcare within the public health system, largely through a system of compulsory savings, subsidies, and price controls.


Singapore's healthcare system uses a mixed financing system that includes nationalised life insurance schemes and deductions from the compulsory savings plan, or the Central Provident Fund (CPF), for working Singaporeans and permanent residents.[5] This mechanism is intended to reduce the overuse of healthcare services. Out-of-pocket charges vary considerably for each service and level of subsidy. At the highest level of subsidy, although each out-of-pocket expense is typically small, costs can accumulate and become substantial for patients and families. At the lowest level, the subsidy is in effect nonexistent, and patients are treated like private patients, even within the public system.

A component within the Central Provident Fund allocates a portion of one's monthly income savings for future medical expenses and approved medical insurance policies. The medical savings account, Medisave, accumulates funds that are individually tracked, and such funds can be pooled within and across an entire extended family. The vast majority of Singapore citizens have substantial savings in this scheme. One of three levels of subsidy is chosen by the patient at the time of the healthcare episode.

Launched in 1990, Medishield is a low cost basic insurance scheme intended for those whose savings are insufficient to meet their medical expenses.[6] Premiums can be paid out of Medisave accounts. A new scheme, Medishield Life, replaced the Medishield in November 2015. Co-insurance payment rates are to be reduced from 10–20% to 3–10% and the lifetime claim limit is to be removed.[7] The scheme helps to pay for hospital bills and selected outpatient treatments. The government provides premium subsidies to lower- to middle-income residents, the elderly and new policyholders transitioning from cheaper policies. Eldershield is a severe disability insurance scheme which insures against the cost of private nursing homes and related expenses. Since 2002, members with a CPF Medisave account will automatically be enrolled in the scheme at the age of 40, unless they choose to opt out. Three private insurers, Aviva, Great Eastern and NTUC Income were chosen to manage ElderShield.[8] It has 1.2 million policyholders as of 2015, with $2.6 billion collected in premiums, and around $100 million in payout claims and $130 million in premium rebates between 2002 and 2015.[9][10] In addition to the insurance schemes, Medifund is government endowment fund for those who are unable to meet their assessed contribution. Risks are not pooled, so an individual may be exposed to catastrophic expenses.[11] A total of $155.2 million was allocated to patients in 2015.[12]

The Integrated Shield Plan (IP) includes both the MediShield Life component and an additional private insurance coverage component run by private insurers, to cover for optional benefits in public hospitals and private hospitals. Premiums for the IP can be paid by the Medisave funds.[6]

Government funding[edit]

As the median age of the population increases, Singapore's healthcare spending is expected to rise. Healthcare spending has risen from $4 billion in 2011 to $9.8 billion in 2016.[13][14] Health-related spending is the third largest expenditure item, after defence and education expenses.[15]

Private healthcare[edit]

The increasingly large private sector provides care to those who are privately insured, foreign patients, or public patients who are able to afford what often amounts to very large out-of-pocket payments above the levels provided by government subsidies.

The government uses the capacity of the private sector to reduce waiting times in the public sector. In 2015 it plans to use the Raffles Medical Group to receive non-critical ambulance cases.[16]


Approximately 70–80% of Singaporeans obtain their medical care within the public health system. Overall government spending on public healthcare amounts to only 1.6% of annual GDP. This amounted to an average of $1,104 Government Health Expenditure per person,[17] partly because government expenditure on healthcare in the private system is extremely low. According to Mark Britnell total expenditure on healthcare is 4.6% of GDP and has stayed almost constant since independence.[18]

Healthcare today in Singapore[edit]

Healthcare System[edit]

Singapore has "one of the most successful healthcare systems in the world, in terms of both efficiency in financing and the results achieved in community health outcomes," according to an analysis by global consulting firm Towers Watson.[19] Apart from the strong reliance on medical savings accounts and cost-sharing, government regulation is considered a crucial factor for the system's perceived efficiency.[20] The government regularly adjusts policies to actively regulate "the supply and prices of healthcare services in the country" in an attempt to keep costs in check. However, for the most part the government does not directly regulate the costs of private medical care. These costs are largely subject to market forces, and vary enormously within the private sector, depending on the medical specialty and service provided.[19]

Singapore Chung Hwa Medical Institution

The specific features of the Singapore healthcare system are unique, and have been described as a "very difficult system to replicate in many other countries." Many Singaporeans also have supplemental private health insurance (often provided by employers) for services not covered by the government's programmes.[19]

Patients are free to choose the providers within the government or private healthcare delivery system and can walk in for a consultation at any private clinic or any government polyclinic. For emergency services, patients can go at any time to the 24-hour Accident & Emergency Departments located in the government hospitals.

Singapore's medical facilities are among the finest in the world.[opinion] As of 2012, Singapore had a total of 10,225 doctors in its healthcare delivery system. This gives a doctor to population ratio of 1:520. The nurse (including midwives) to population ratio is 1:150, with a total of 34,507 nurses. There are 1,645 dentists, giving a ratio of 1 dentist to 3,230 people.[17][21]

Agency for Integrated Care[edit]

The Agency for Integrated Care was established in 2009 to improve services in the community and in nursing homes. Regional health systems have been established to link hospitals with rehabilitation centres and primary care. Many of its initiatives have been supported through Temasek Cares.

National Electronic Record Programme[edit]

The National Electronic Record Programme was launched in 2011 and is used by more than 280 institutions to support telehealth and telemedicine.[18]

Pioneer Generation Package[edit]

The ‘’’Pioneer Generation Package’’’ (PGP; Chinese: 建国一代配套, pinyin: Jiànguóyìdài pèitào; Malay: Pakej Generasi Perintis) is a S$9 billion package launched in 2014 aimed at helping pioneering Singaporeans to meet retirement adequacy. PGP is designed as a series of healthcare and social support schemes to show gratitude towards pioneer Singaporeans for their contributions to Singapore during the nation's nascency. The package covers approximately 450,000 pioneer Singaporeans over an estimated 20-year period. [22]

The package defines a "Pioneer" as a Singaporean born on or before 31 December 1949 and obtained citizenship before 31 December 1986. [23] The Pioneer Generation Office was set up in 2014 to educate seniors about the PGP. This office was merged with the Agency for Integrated Care and renamed the Silver Generation Office from 1 April 2018 and will be managed by the Ministry of Health (Singapore) in a bid to streamline care for the elderly. [24]

Hospitals in Singapore[edit]

In 2012, there were a total of 10,756 hospital beds in the 25 hospitals and specialty centres in Singapore. The 8 public hospitals comprise 6 acute general hospitals (SGH, NUH, CGH, TTSH, KTPH & NTFGH), a women's and children's hospital (KKH) and a psychiatry hospital (IMH).[25] In addition, there are 8 national specialty centres for cancer (NCCS), cardiac (NHCS), eye (SNEC), skin (NSC), neuroscience (NNI), dental care (NDCS) and a medical centre for multiple disciplines (NCIS and NHCS).[25]

The Singapore General Hospital is the largest and oldest hospital in Singapore, of which the foundation of its first building was laid in 1821.

The Tan Tock Seng Hospital is the second largest hospital in Singapore after the Singapore General Hospital, but its accident and emergency department is the busiest in the country largely due to its geographically centralised location. Set up in 1844 by an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Tan Tock Seng, the hospital came into the international spotlight when it was designated as the sole treatment centre for the SARS epidemic which struck the country in 2003.

Mental health[edit]

There is one psychiatric hospital in Singapore, the Institute of Mental Health, previously known as Woodbridge Hospital after its old location near a wooden bridge in Yio Chu Kang. It is now located in Hougang.

Obstetrics and gynaecology[edit]

Singapore Medical Group Ltd acquired six obstetrics and gynaecology clinics in 2016 for $60m in October 2016.[26]

Restructuring in 1990s[edit]

In the 1990s, all public hospitals were "restructured" which means that they have been operated as government-owned corporations rather than the typical model of public hospitals in other countries.

There are three healthcare groups operating public hospitals and national specialty centres:

  1. National Healthcare Group
  2. National University Health System
  3. SingHealth

Means testing in Singapore hospitals[edit]

Patients warded in B2 and C class wards in public hospitals with effect from 1 January 2009 will be means-tested to determine the level of subsidy they will be entitled.

  • Patient subsidy will be based on the average monthly income received over the last available 12-month period including bonuses for salaried employees.
  • Services such as Day surgery, A&E services, Specialist Outpatient and polyclinic visits will not be means tested and standard subsidies rate applied to citizens and PR as usual.
  • People with no income, such as retirees or housewives, will have their subsidy rate pegged to the value of their homes.
  • All unemployed residents of HDB flats excluding those in executive condominiums (EC) will be entitled to full subsidy.
Means testing in public hospitals as of 1 January 2009 [27]
Average Monthly
Income of Patient (SGD)
Citizens Subsidy Permanent residents Subsidy
Class C Class B2 Class C Class B2
$3,200 and below1 80% 65% 70% 55%
$3,201 – $3,350 79% 64% 69% 54%
$3,351 – $3,500 78% 63% 68% 53%
$3,501 – $3,650 77% 62% 67% 52%
$3,651 – $3,800 76% 61% 66% 51%
$3,801 – $3,950 75% 60% 65% 50%
$3,951 – $4,100 74% 59% 64% 49%
$4,101 – $4,250 73% 58% 63% 48%
$4,251 – $4,400 72% 57% 62% 47%
$4,401 – $4,550 71% 56% 61% 46%
$4,551 – $4,700 70% 55% 60% 45%
$4,701 – $4,850 69% 54% 59% 44%
$4,851 – $5,000 68% 53% 58% 43%
$5,001 – $5,100 67% 52% 57% 42%
$5,101 – $5,200 66% 51% 56% 41%
$5,201 and above2 65% 50% 55% 40%

1. No income declare and property with AV below $11,000.
2. No income declare and property with AV exceeding $11,000.
3. Foreigners no longer receive any subsidies at public hospitals since 01-Jan-08.

Healthcare for workers and visitors[edit]

Foreign residents in Singapore who are not classed as Permanent Residents do not enjoy any subsidised or preferential access to healthcare in Singapore. They can, and do, use the primary healthcare facilities such as general practitioners, polyclinics at cost, however their quality varies widely: it is normally recommended to ask locals to advise on which doctors to use. For inpatient services, the government restructured hospitals provide a reasonably good service, but it is costly and patients will normally be asked to provide a credit card and pay a very large deposit upon admittance. The cost of these services can easily exceed the cost of private healthcare, especially for maternity/childbirth.

Many white collar foreigners are provided with health insurance by their employers. If not, local organisations such as NTUC Income have a number of schemes, usually with co-payment terms, for health coverage (NTUC is the National Trades Union Congress, a non-profit making organisation). The main NTUC Income medical plans used by foreigners (called iMedicare[28]) are configurable to allow patients to visit primary and secondary health providers, with just their passport and iMedicare card to enjoy immediate, cashless, treatment (or treatment for a very low flat rate, perhaps just $5).

In general, Singaporeans tend to subscribe to a number of insurance plans, which may include healthcare, total and permanent disability (TPD) insurance, dread disease insurance and life insurance. Foreign residents may wish to inquire into similar schemes.

Short-term foreign visitors to Singapore are generally advised to ensure that they have medical coverage as part of their travel insurance.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The World Health Report 2000 : Health Systems : Improving Performance (PDF). Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization. 2000. p. 154. ISBN 92-4-156198-X. 
  2. ^ "Most Efficient Health Care Around the World". 
  3. ^ "Singapore ranked world's No. 2 for health-care outcomes: EIU". 
  4. ^ "Singapore healthiest Asian country; Italy tops global list despite economic crisis". 
  5. ^ "Costs and Financing". Ministry of Health. Retrieved 22 October 2017. 
  6. ^ a b Huang, Claire (15 July 2017). "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Integrated Shield Plans". The Business Times. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  7. ^ Khalik, Salma (31 October 2015). "MediShield Life coverage to kick in at midnight". The Straits Times. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  8. ^ Tan, Weizhen (7 July 2017). "Govt studying proposal to take over running of ElderShield". TODAY. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  9. ^ "S$90m paid out in ElderShield claims since its 2002 launch". Channel NewsAsia. 4 April 2016. Archived from the original on 2017-10-24. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  10. ^ "Parliamentary Debates Singapore – Official Report" (PDF). National Archives of Singapore. 
  11. ^ Britnell, Mark (2015). In Search of the Perfect Health System. London: Palgrave. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-137-49661-4. 
  12. ^ "Medifund assistance dropped to S$155.2m last year". TODAY. 24 November 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  13. ^ Britnell, Mark (2015). In Search of the Perfect Health System. London: Palgrave. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-137-49661-4. 
  14. ^ Basu, Radha (7 October 2017). "Long-term care: If this is so important, why aren't we putting our money where our mouth is?". The Straits Times. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  15. ^ Ramchandani, Nisha (21 February 2017). "A smaller budget surplus of S$1.91b likely for FY17". The Business Times. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  16. ^ Britnell, Mark (2015). In Search of the Perfect Health System. London: Palgrave. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-137-49661-4. 
  17. ^ a b "Singapore Health Facts". Ministry of Health, Singapore. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Britnell, Mark (2015). In Search of the Perfect Health System. London: Palgrave. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-137-49661-4. 
  19. ^ a b c John Tucci, "The Singapore health system – achieving positive health outcomes with low expenditure", Watson Wyatt Healthcare Market Review, October 2004. Archived 19 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Carroll, Aaron E.; Frakt, Austin (2 October 2017). "What Makes Singapore's Health Care So Cheap?". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 24 October 2017. 
  21. ^ Overview of Doctors and Dentists in Singapore Archived 26 January 2013 at the Wayback Machine. at
  22. ^ "Pioneer Generation Package". 
  23. ^ "Singapore Budget 2015 Annex B-1: Pioneer Generation Package" (PDF). Retrieved 27 March 2018. 
  24. ^ Lai, Linette (20 February 2018). "Singapore Budget 2018: Senior care services to come under Health Ministry". The Straits Times. Retrieved 26 March 2018. 
  25. ^ a b "Hospital Services". Ministry of Health, Singapore. Ministry of Health, Singapore. Retrieved July 25, 2017. 
  26. ^ "Singapore Medical Group to acquire obstetrics and gynaecology clinics". Singapore Business review. 11 October 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  27. ^ Means Testing at Singapore public hospitals
  28. ^ "NTUC Commercial Insurance". Retrieved 2 July 2014. 

External links[edit]