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Health insurance in Singapore for foreign expats

Singapore is well-known for having both an exceptionally high level of healthcare and a thriving expat community. It’s a vibrant, clean and modern city-state.

Its population of just under 5.7 million¹ people is also one of the healthiest in the world. With low crime and pollution rates, and a culture that’s built on staying active and healthy, the average life expectancy in Singapore is just under 84 years. One of the highest in the world.²

So, if you’re thinking of moving to Singapore, whether for a short-term placement or for the rest of your life, you’ll be well looked after, but you’ll also be encouraged (and expected) to look after yourself too. 


In a word: Excellent. 

When the World Health Organization published its rankings of the world’s healthcare systems in 2000, Singapore came sixth out of 191. Things haven’t changed much since then, with Singapore consistently appearing towards the top of other similar lists over the years.

Both public and private healthcare facilities are home to state-of-the-art equipment, modern amenities and world-class medical personnel. The system itself focuses on offering medical care quickly and cost-effectively. Within private facilities, you may find that the waiting times are shorter and doctors are more experienced, but the overall quality tends to be similar between the two.

The Singaporean government takes the health of its people very seriously and constantly measures and regulates every aspect of the healthcare system to ensure it remains fair, effective and efficient. The Ministry of Health in Singapore also actively promotes healthy living with programmes dedicated to keeping people active and preventing illness. Singapore was ranked ninth in Money UK’s 2021 list of the healthiest countries in the world, which is based on obesity and pollution rates, food prices and life expectancy. It also came in at number eight on Bloomberg’s 2019 Global Health Index. 

One important thing to note is that, for most expats and visitors, the cost of using Singapore’s excellent healthcare facilities and services would need to be covered by an insurance policy or paid for out-of-pocket. Singapore does have public health insurance and associated benefits, which we’ll outline below, but they are only available to citizens and permanent residents. 

Singapore’s public healthcare is universal but, for most, it’s not free. The country restructured its healthcare system during the 1980s to tackle rising costs, put provisions in place to cater for a growing population and encourage people to look after themselves and take responsibility for their health. 

The funding for Singapore’s healthcare system is shared between the government and the population. Citizens and permanent residents (PRs) make compulsory contributions to the country’s Central Provident Fund (CPF), while non-residents pay for medical expenses directly or through private medical insurance. 

The contributions citizens and permanent residents make can be a significant percentage of their monthly wage but, in return, they receive subsidised medical rates and gain access to the country’s healthcare system via ‘the three Ms’ - MediSave, MediShield Life, and MediFund.


This is a compulsory medical savings account that puts funds aside for citizens and permanent residents to pay for day-to-day health concerns, routine procedures and ongoing treatment or care. It enables people to manage their own medical costs and encourages them to use healthcare services responsibly. A proportion of an employee’s monthly CPF (Central Provident Fund) contribution is automatically put into their MediSave account, and they then have the freedom to use those savings to cover their family’s healthcare costs. The savings can be used in both public and private healthcare facilities, or to pay for private health insurance. 

MediShield Life

MediShield Life is a public insurance programme that acts as a back-up to MediSave by covering emergencies, serious illnesses and unforeseen health incidents that would incur substantial costs. It is compulsory for all citizens and PRs and covers larger healthcare expenses up to a certain level within public facilities. There are also various Private Integrated Shield Plans that Singaporeans can add to their MediShield Life plan to top-up their overall coverage if they wish. 


While MediSave and MediShield are available to both permanent residents and citizens, MediFund is only available to Singapore’s citizens. It’s a separate fund that the state created in the early ‘90s to cover the medical expenses of those that can’t afford to put money into a MediSave account, or that have difficulty covering medical expenses.

The three Ms (MediSave, MediShield Life, and MediFund), and Singapore’s associated public healthcare benefits (such as subsidised rates), are only available to citizens or permanent residents (PRs). If you’re moving to Singapore, it’s important to note that permanent residency is a very specific status – usually only attained after many years in the country – so most foreign nationals and expats never become PRs. 

You’ll still have access to Singapore’s world-class healthcare facilities and services, but you’ll have to cover the costs yourself, which is why most expats in Singapore make sure they have comprehensive healthcare cover before they arrive.

As an expat in Singapore on a work-permit or S-pass visa (work visa for mid-level skilled foreign technicians with advance expertise in such key developing industries as chemicals, electronics, aerospace engineering, marine, pharmaceuticals and others), you won’t be able to contribute to the CPF (Central Provident Fund) but your employer will be required to provide you with health insurance.

If you’re working in Singapore on an Employment Pass, your employer isn’t required to provide you with health insurance, though many still do. If you’re not covered by your employer, it’s not mandatory for you to take out your own health insurance policy.

Singapore’s healthcare system may sound a bit complex at first, but it’s well regulated and set up to be as fair as possible. 

Public vs. private

The majority of Singapore’s hospital beds are in public hospitals, but there are different levels of privacy and amenities. While an A-class ward might offer single or double rooms with air-conditioning, a C-class ward is far less private with eight or nine patients per room and no ensuite bathrooms. For citizens and permanent residents (PRs), the class of the ward is reflected in the amount they pay, as the government covers a proportion of their costs. These cost benefits don’t apply to non-residents.

Meanwhile, private hospitals and clinics tend to provide comfortable facilities, shorter waiting times, and more experienced specialists and doctors. The government doesn’t help towards the costs of private care for citizens, which is why they tend to be less busy.

Both public and private healthcare facilities have highly trained doctors, high-tech equipment and excellent facilities. This means you’ll receive a very high standard of care wherever you go but, as private hospitals can often cost a similar amount to public ones for expats, many choose to go down the private route. 

Doctor visits

If you get ill in Singapore or have an accident that’s not an emergency, your first stop will be to a local doctor (GP). There are plenty of options available, from private GPs to public healthcare centres (polyclinics), where you can go for routine procedures like health screenings, follow-ups, vaccinations and other outpatient care. 

Depending on your issue, you shouldn’t have to wait long for an appointment. Waiting times tend to be shorter when you go private, but polyclinics are usually able to offer same-day appointments for minor issues.

As an expat, you can register with a specific GP or health centre, but you don’t need to. In Singapore, you can walk into a health centre and register on-site. It’s quick and easy, and the best part is that your details will be stored digitally, so once you’ve registered on your first visit, you won’t have to do it again.

Specialist referrals

When you see a local GP, they can refer you to a specialist if needs be. Only public services are covered by Singapore’s MediShield Life scheme, so public waiting times can be longer as more of Singapore’s citizens and PRs go down this route. 

As an expat, you aren’t bound by the requirements of the public insurance scheme, so you can explore private specialist appointments and treatment if your insurance covers you for them. You’ll enjoy shorter waiting times, and you can make appointments for these services without a referral from a GP. You also have flexibility about where you go, so you can do some research and find a specialist that matches your needs.


The emergency phone number for the ambulance (or fire) service in Singapore is 995, while you can call for a non-emergency ambulance on 1777. There are Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments throughout the city, but these can often have lengthy waiting times.

Dental care

The quality of dental care in Singapore is just as high as its medical care. Dentists in Singapore are highly trained and carefully regulated by the Singapore Dental Council. Local dentists complete a four-year course at the National University of Singapore Faculty of Dentistry and specialists must do a further three years, after at least two years of general practice.

Like healthcare, there are both public and private dentists and, while expats don’t enjoy the reduced rates that the locals do, public clinics tend to be slightly cheaper than private ones. But, on the other hand, the waiting times at private clinics are usually shorter as there are far more private dentists operating throughout the city. 

Either way, you can make an appointment quickly by contacting a clinic in the same way as you would with GP services. And, if you need specialist care, you don’t need a referral from a general dental practitioner so you can contact a specialist clinic directly to arrange an appointment.

Pharmacies and medicine

Hospitals and GP clinics in Singapore have pharmacies attached to them, and there are also plenty of independent pharmacies operating throughout the city in malls or on shopping streets. 

You’ll need a prescription from a local doctor to get medicine from a Singaporean pharmacy, even if you have a prescription from your home country. And as an expat, the cost isn’t covered or reduced through any public healthcare scheme, so you’ll pay for it up front. You’ll also find that some of Singapore’s pharmacies can provide basic medical services like blood pressure checks or vaccination advice.

Health insurance isn’t mandatory for people visiting Singapore, but it’s recommended. Around two-thirds of Singapore’s population is thought to have some form of private medical insurance, whether that’s to cover all expenses or supplement their public healthcare cover. 

If you’re not a citizen or a permanent resident (PR) – and most expats aren’t – then you’ll have access to world-class specialist medical staff and excellent healthcare facilities, but no access to Singapore’s public health system. That means you’ll need to cover all your healthcare costs yourself. While a one-off GP appointment is fairly reasonable, ongoing treatment or major procedures can incur very high costs. That’s why many opt for private health cover when planning on a move to Singapore.

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From getting the right visa, to adapting to a very different way of life, there’s a lot to consider when moving to Singapore. But with our annual healthcare plan, you’ll have one less thing to worry about. We’ll help you settle into your new life with the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ve always got somewhere to turn for help.

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With the Virtual Doctor service, you can have a medical consultation with a real doctor wherever you are in the world – from the comfort of your home, hotel or office. Better still, there are doctors on call and available 24/7.


Singapore is an unforgettable place to visit. We want to make sure you enjoy every minute of it, with healthcare cover that’ll give you access to one of the best healthcare systems in the world.

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The Virtual Doctor service lets you speak to a real doctor from anywhere in the world3 in a number of languages. It can help point you in the right direction if Singapore’s healthcare system seems a little complex at first. 

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From overnight hospital stays to ambulance transport, our  plans offer emergency cover as standard. And, with optional extras like dental care and out-patient services, you can choose a package that suits you.

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Wherever you are in this bustling city, you don’t want to have to worry about what might happen in an emergency. Our team can arrange for your evacuation and repatriation if things don’t quite go to plan, and you can’t get the treatment you need, locally.

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With fewer cars, less crime and no litter, Singapore sounds like paradise, but it could take a while to settle in. Our Mind Health service is here to connect you to qualified psychologists for support when you need it. ⁵

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If you feel unsure about a diagnosis or treatment plan, want a better understanding of local healthcare practices, need details explained to you in another language, or you’d like to make sure you’ve explored every option – our Second Medical Opinion service can help bring you peace of mind.6

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Singapore has a thriving job market that provides opportunities for professionals from all over the world. Whether you need comprehensive cover or you want to supplement the cover you get through your employer, you can choose a plan that suits your circumstances.

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Singapore’s clean air, low levels of crime and healthy culture make it a popular destination for families to start a new life. If you’re planning a move, don’t let a health worry interfere with your experience. Our annual international health plans will help cover you and your family throughout your time there.

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The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing

Local insights have been checked by Oban International’s LIME (Local In-Market Expert) network’ -  



3 The Virtual Doctor service is part of our Virtual Care from AXA service. Appointments are subject to availability. You do not need to pay or claim for a consultation but you will be charged for the cost of the initial phone call when using the call back service. You won’t be charged if you request a call back using the app or online portal. Telephone appointments are available 24/7/365 and call-backs are typically within 24 hours. Video appointments in English, Spanish and Mandarin are available between 08.00 and 00.00 UK time, Monday to Friday. Video appointments in German are available between 08:00 -20:00 CET, Monday to Friday

4 80.6% of eligible claims submitted online between July 2022 and June 2023 were paid within two days. 

5 Mind Health psychologist appointments are available in English and Spanish between Monday and Friday, 09.00 - 17.30 (UK time). If you are calling from the UAE, appointments are available between Saturday to Thursday, 09.00 – 20.00, and Friday 09.00 – 16.00 (UAE time). The service, provided in partnership with Teladoc Health, provides access to six sessions with a psychologist, per mind health concern, per policy year. The Mind Health service is part of our Virtual Care from AXA service.

6 Our Second Medical Opinion service is here for you anytime you’re unsure over a diagnosis or recommended course of treatment. It’s part of our Virtual Care offering, along with the Virtual Doctor and Mind Health services, so you might have already seen it on your plan or on the Virtual Care from AXA <app> or <portal>. Provided in partnership with Teladoc Health, the service unlocks access to a network of over 50,000 world-leading specialists and connects you to a doctor who will review your case alongside an expert. They’ll work with you to help you understand your diagnosis, make sure you know your options and support you throughout any treatment, wherever you are in the world.