Poll: S'poreans best prepared for health costs

PHOTO: Poll: S'poreans best prepared for health costs

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans are the best prepared for future health expenses among five leading Asian cities or countries, research has found.

However, they could be underestimating what that will cost.

Among working adults here, 74 per cent say they are prepared for post-retirement health expenses - higher than in Hong Kong (60 per cent), China (50 per cent), Japan (34 per cent), and South Korea (31 per cent).

Working adults in Singapore start planning for retirement at the average age of 37. They expect to retire at the age of 64 and live up to 82, giving them 18 years of retirement, the studies found.

In contrast, people in China start planning at 41, want to retire when they are 58 and expect to live to the ripe old age of 89 - with 31 years spent in retirement.

More than half the Chinese expect a better quality of life after retirement, compared with 26 per cent of people in Singapore.

More than half the people here expect little change after they retire.

Among Japanese and Korean working adults, 62 per cent expect to have a poorer quality of life after retirement.

About a third of older Singaporeans depend on their families to help pay their medical expenses, but only 3 per cent of the younger group expect to need to do so in the future.

The figures were worked out by Swiss Re, a Switzerland-based reinsurance company. It commissioned two studies last year: one looking at the future health-care needs of a country, and the other on people's perception of their needs and ability to provide for them.

For the second study, it interviewed 200 adults in Singapore aged 40 to 59 and 200 aged 60 years and older. All were in the top half of the population in terms of wealth or income.

However, the research found there was a $124 million shortfall here between the medical treatments that people need and those they are prepared to pay for.

This figure is expected to rise to $737 million by 2020.

This could be due to Singaporeans underestimating certain health factors.

They estimate their cancer risk to be 26 per cent - when in reality one in three will get cancer.

Working adults think insurance will cover 67 per cent of treatment cost, though more than 40 per cent are not aware there are limits to insurance coverage.

Professor Euston Quah of the Nanyang Technological University's economics department treated the findings with caution.

He warned that if people have the wrong perception of their health risks, then their idea of being prepared for such expenses may be wrong.

He suggested that the Government "continually disseminate such statistical health information to the general public and also to continually monitor the health industry such that people don't get misinformation from providers and insurance companies".

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