Health insurance cost to rise from March

PHOTO: Health insurance cost to rise from March

SINGAPORE - The cost of health-care insurance will spike sharply from March when premiums increase on the back of enhancements to MediShield coverage.

Annual premiums for MediShield, the national health insurance scheme, will increase by between $17 and $251 partly as coverage is now being extended to 90 years of age.

A person aged 40 on his next birthday, for example, will have to pay $105 a year, up from $54 previously, a 94 per cent spike. Someone aged 85 on his next birthday will see an increase of about 2.4 per cent from $1,123 to $1,150.

The Government is providing a one-off Medisave top-up of up to $400, for all insured Singapore citizens.

MediShield is a basic plan that is aimed at providing Singaporeans with coverage for large hospital bills at the Class B2 and Class C levels.

There is also the option to increase the coverage with a Medisave-approved integrated shield plan, which can include private hospitals in their coverage. Integrated shield plan premiums can be paid using Medisave.

The integrated shield plan providers are AIA, Aviva, Great Eastern, NTUC Income and Prudential.

In line with the MediShield premium increases, private insurers have also upped their annual premiums for shield plans. The increases depend on the policy and age. The average increase by each insurer is about 20 per cent to 50 per cent.

The insurers say the premium rises take into account the increased coverage provided, which includes $100-a-day claims for acute psychiatric hospital care for up to 35 days a year and claims for short stays at medical emergency departments.

Coverage has also been extended to inpatient congenital and neonatal treatment for newly diagnosed conditions.

In e-mail responses to The Straits Times, the five insurers offering integrated shield plans cited rising medical costs and the high incidence of claims as main reasons for their premium increases.

Different insurers have also included unique enhancements to their plans.

Great Eastern (GE), the leading insurer here, said the average claim cost per insured member increased by 50 per cent between 2008 and 2011.

NTUC Income's senior vice-president and general manager for group and health, Mr Pui Phusangmook, noted that since the last MediShield premium increase in 2008, the average payout per claim has risen by 12 per cent per year.

"The revisions are necessary to sustain our IncomeShield plans and meet the needs of policyholders over the long term," he said.

"We have not made any changes to the premiums of most of our main plans for over four years, and adjustments were overdue in the face of rising medical costs and longer life expectancy."

He added that as Singapore's first provider of integrated shield plans, NTUC Income customers tend to be subject to fewer, if any, exclusions and therefore more likely to make claims.

Mr Daniel Lum, director of product and marketing at Aviva Singapore said that integrated shield plans offered by the various insurers vary not just in terms of premiums but also benefits. "Rather than simply comparing premiums, consumers should look at the benefits to ensure the plan they've selected best suits their needs."

GE's chief product officer Lee Swee Kiang noted: "The public should be mindful not to switch insurers or plans too easily as they run the risk of not being covered by the new insurer should they have an unknown pre-existing medical condition."

Customers will be informed of the changes by their insurers.

songyuan@sph.com.sg


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