Let’s talk about health insurance, shall we? Health insurance is part and parcel of everyone’s life, no matter which community you are from. For a simple reason, medical costs in Singapore don’t come cheap. While the room and board charges can be low, this is only a portion of the total make up of your hospitalisation bill – which includes operation fees, professional fees, etc, that MOH has provided an estimate for.
Therefore, it is important to make sure that you have a health insurance plan in place. This is especially so for the LGBTQ+ community, as many of us are striving to excel in our career to get a place of our own since our parents are usually not very receptive of us being in the community. However, getting seriously ill will deplete our savings with a snap of our finger.
While some of us may have a life partner and want to include them into the corporate insurance cover offered by our companies for better benefits, not all group insurance cover can allow us to do so. Even if it is possible to do so, it only covers us and our partners for as long as we remain their employees.
I shall provide a brief introduction on the types of health insurance that are available, of which, some may suit you better than others.
Health Insurance Available in the Market
Medishield Life is an insurance cover administered by Central Provident Fund (CPF) to provide Singapore Citizens and Permanent Residents with affordable healthcare. This is a compulsory coverage for us all.
However, since the intent for this insurance is to provide affordable cover if you are required to be hospitalised, so the pay-out are based on B2/C wards of public hospitals and only up to a certain bill amount, note that any pre or post hospitalization costs are not covered by it.
Since the intent of Medishield Life is to provide affordable health insurance, premium can be paid using Medisave and if you are hospitalised due to a pre-existing condition, there will also be cover, but you have to take note that the maximum annual limits for Medishield Life is S$100,000.
More details about Medishield life is available on Ministry of Health’s website.
Integrated Shield Plan
Integrated Shield Plan (IP) is a supplement to our Medishield Life cover. This supplementary cover is built on Medishield Life’s coverage, so people with the ability to enhance their coverage are able to do so. There are several insurance companies for you to choose from. The highest annual limit that is available in the market is at S$2million.
The good thing about IPs is that you can use your Medisave to pay for the premium up to the withdrawal limits set. If the premium exceeds the withdrawal limit, you will have to be pay out of your own pocket.
Of course it is not without any downside. For one, insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions so you may have to rely on your Medisave Life and savings to cover the hospitalisation expenses.
If you are thinking of using your Medisave to pay for your partner’s IP, I am afraid that I will have to burst that bubble of yours. Only parents, legal spouse, children, grandparents and siblings can use your Medisave to pay for their IP premiums. Since our relationship is not recognised in Singapore’s law, your partner will have to use their own Medisave to pay for the premium.
International Health Insurance
International Health Insurance is at a completely different level as compared to IPs – think of them as the Hermès of Health Insurance! Unlike Medishield Life and IP, international health insurance, like the name implies, provides you with an option to have a worldwide cover (even if it is not an emergency).
Another thing worth mentioning is that some of the insurance companies do not have a cap for their annual limits for their top tier coverage. This will remove one of the concerns you might have when claiming on the insurance policy. This is good if one unfortunately contracts a rare condition, for one does not want to be battling an illness while being troubled by the medical expenses.
Some companies cover pre-existing conditions after a certain number of years insurance with them. Some companies ask no questions at the point of application (or what we call “moratorium underwriting”), while others will need to underwrite your condition before granting coverage which sometimes come with an additional premium.
If you are down with a common cold, fever, or require a specialist because of your skin condition, these insurance programs can have you covered as well. Some may even cover your routine visits to the dentist, expenses for glasses/contact lenses, vaccinations, and even body check-ups!
All these are of course subjected to the insurance terms and conditions as there are still things that will not be covered (eg: gender reassignment surgery, any unlawful procedures).
Local Health Insurance
This cover is somewhat in between international health insurance and Medishield Life/IPs, where it provides more benefits versus Medishield Life/IPs (covering outpatient and dental benefits). However, like Medishield Life/IPs, the coverage is predominately within Singapore and extended cover only for emergency overseas treatment.
Currently, less insurance companies are offering local health insurance due to the gaining popularity of affordable international health insurance. The pricing of these international health insurance can be as competitive as local health insurance coverage.
Why does it matter to me?
After knowing what is available in the market, what does it mean to you? As a person in the queer community our needs are different from our straight counterparts. If your insurance intermediary is not someone from our queer community, they might not be able to understand some of our more specific requirements.
Which is why it is good for us to know some basic knowledge that will enable us to make a better decision for ourselves.
Here are some of the things in which you might want to consider when getting a health insurance
Definition of family/spouse
Not all health insurance that we have touched on will allow you to cover your better half or your child under the same insurance cover (if you want to have some form of cost savings via premium discount for some insurance companies). But for those that do, it is important to look at the definition of a spouse or child.
If the definition of the insurance cover is restrictive, you will have to reconsider taking up the cover – since a same sex relationship is not recognised in Singapore, we will have to make sure that the insurance can protect us in times of need should there be a decision to buy coverage for your partner, yourself and even your children via adoption/surrogacy.
The definition for children has remained quite constant which is your biological child or child who you legally adopt. For spouse, every company has their own definition for it. However, the definition for “spouse” for international health insurance is usually broader in comparison to local health insurance since it has to cater for the different regulations of the various regions, so they will accept civil partnerships, de facto partners and of course LGBT couples.
We are aware that in our queer community, HIV/AIDs is a major concern and people living with HIV will know that most of the insurance coverage will exclude any conditions arising from HIV/AIDs.
Luckily for Singapore Citizens, Medishield Life covers pre-existing conditions if you are being hospitalised due to the condition. However, antiretroviral drugs medication to suppress the virus will not be covered and these medications do not come cheap.
Therefore, prevention is better than cure! So people who have multiple sexual partners do get yourself tested, practice safe sex!
Another thing within our community is about our mental well-being. We can be more susceptible to mental conditions since some of us can be in a conflict with ourselves about whether we should come out of the closet, or sometimes our transgender families might have to deal with 2 coming-outs (one for sexuality, the other the change of gender), or getting that Instagram worthy perfect body due to the community’s unrealistic view on physique (I am guilty of it!).
While it will be great to have an emotional support system to tide you through, what about those of us who do not have this support system? What if we need professional advice? Things will go spiraling down, and next you know, depression/anxiety/etc will hit you.
Te good thing is that the majority of the health insurance plans do cover psychiatric treatment. Although one must look at the extensiveness of what each plan has to offer. It might only be limited to inpatient treatment with a capping on the claim amount, to covering both inpatient and outpatient in full.
All in all, I cannot stress the importance of having a health insurance cover – not just as a person within the queer community, but as an individual in general. The cost of healthcare is scary! While our government does provide us with a basic healthcare cover, we really need to ask ourselves if it is sufficient.
Speak to your insurance adviser and get the most appropriate health insurance cover that best suits your current needs and budget. Do not overcommit yourself and get a plan with great benefits but is out of your budget.
About the Author
Corin has been in the insurance industry for the past 10 years as a business development manager for some major general insurance companies before deciding to take a leap of faith to be a financial advisor.
He is currently in a financial advisory firm which has multiple insurance partners, he is able to assist clients to procure from them to best suit his clients’ needs. His aim is to make sure that his clients understand the importance of financial planning and making sure they are well protected for any unfortunate events.
He is also a model, so do not be shocked if in the future his face is on the cover of magazines (fingers crossed!)
Reach out to him via his email, facebook or even instagram!
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