With so many Integrated Shield Plans available, how do you decide which to choose?

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All Singaporeans are covered by MediShield Life for the most basic of medical coverage. But on top of MediShield Life, an estimated two-thirds of Singaporeans are also paying for an integrated shield plan (IP) from one of 7 private insurers:

  • AIA Healthshield Gold Max
  • Aviva MyShield
  • AXA Shield
  • Great Eastern Supreme Health
  • NTUC IncomeShield
  • Prudential PruShield
  • Raffles Shield

Each insurer offers a few options for their integrated shield plans, which means Singaporeans looking for an IP will have over 25 options to choose from. That sounds daunting, but making your decision is actually easier than it seems.

You only need to have a faint idea of what level of coverage you want, and the rest of it is mainly just crunching numbers. Easier than deciding which bubble tea you want at KOI.

Ready to compare the heck out of Integrated Shield plans? Let’s go.

Step 1: Know the limits of MediShield Life

We’ve established that all Singaporeans are covered with health insurance: MediShield Life. (If you didn’t know this, you definitely need to read this comprehensive guide to health insurance in Singapore!)

Instead of buying an Integrated Shield plan because your insurance agent friend told you to, it’s worth checking out what MediShield Life covers so you know WHY you want to get an IP.

Being government-issued health insurance, MediShield Life is very affordable, but it’s as basic as it gets. Which means it has some very serious limitations:

  • Covers only the lower wards: MediShield Life covers only up to public hospital Class B2 or C ward. If you stay in a more comfortable ward, you’ll need to top up the difference out of Medisave or your pocket.
  • Surgery coverage capped at $2,600: If your operation costs more than $2,600, you’ll need to top up the rest.
  • No pre-/post-hospitalisation treatment coverage: MediShield Life doesn’t include diagnosis, early stage treatments, and recovery, which can add up to more than a hospital stay.

Here’s a link to MOH’s website showing the claim limits of MediShield Life.

Step 2: Choose the coverage (i.e. ward class) you want

If you feel underwhelmed by MediShield Life, take this opportunity to figure out what standard of healthcare you want to receive (at minimum) should you fall ill or get into an accident. 

Are you okay with going to a public hospital, as long as you get into a “better” B1 ward? Or you die-die must go to a private hospital for the best healthcare possible?

Each insurer offers 2 or 3 IPs corresponding to ward tiers: Class B1, Class A, or private hospital. 

Integrated Shield insurer Class B1 Class A Private hospital
AIA Healthshield Gold Max B Lite B A
Aviva MyShield Plan 3 Plan 2 Plan 1
AXA Shield Plan B Plan A
Great Eastern Supreme Health B Plus A Plus P Plus
NTUC Enhanced IncomeShield Basic Advantage Preferred
Prudential PruShield Plus Premier
Raffles Shield B A Private

Once you’ve decided on the healthcare tier you need, you’ll have narrowed it down from 19 plans to just 5 or 7.

Step 3: Know what to look for in an Integrated Shield plan

Don’t worry, you won’t have to look through the ENTIRE policy documents of every Integrated Shield plan unless you’re a masochist.

There are actually just 3 things you need to look out for when making your choice:

  • Cost of premiums: We’ll comparing the cost of both the IP premiums (which are Medisave-payable) and the cost of the co-payment rider (payable in cash).
  • Pre- and post-hospitalisation coverage: All IPs compared here cover these costs “as charged”, but they differ in length of coverage. Obviously, the longer the period, the better.
  • Annual coverage limit: This refers to how much you can claim up to each year before the insurer stops footing your bills.

Integrated Shield comparison 2021: Public hospital Class B1 IPs

Now let’s start crunching some numbers. Here’s a comparison of the 5 Class B1 Integrated Shield plans:

Insurer Annual premium* Rider premium* Annual claim limit Pre-hospitalisation  Post-hospitalisation 
AIA $412 $144 $300,000 100 days 100 days
Aviva $410 $211 $500,000 180 days (panel) 365 days (panel)
Great Eastern  $380 $138 $500,000 120 days 365 days (panel)
NTUC Income $381 $134 $250,000 100 days 100 days
Raffles $393 $80 $300,000 90 days 90 days

* For Singapore citizens aged 35.

Class B1 IPs are extremely affordable, but they’re not that much of an upgrade over MediShield Life (which covers B2). The main benefit would be pre- and post-hospitalisation costs.

Great Eastern Supreme Health B Plus is probably the best IP you can buy for this level of coverage. Not only does it have the lowest premium for this age group, it also has the highest annual coverage limit.

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Integrated Shield comparison 2021: Public hospital Class A IPs

Moving on to the comparison of the Class A Integrated Shield plans, which all 7 insurers offer:

Insurer Annual premium* Rider premium* Annual claim limit Pre-hospitalisation  Post-hospitalisation 
AIA  $478 $234 $1 million 180 days 180 days
Aviva  $478 $264 $1 million 180 days (panel) 365 days (panel)
AXA  $466 $200 $550,000 180 days 365 days
Great Eastern  $434 $213 $1 million 120 days 365 days (panel)
NTUC Income $414  $212 $500,000 100 days 100 days
Prudential  $392 $246 $600,000 180 days 365 days
Raffles  $422 $138 $600,000 180 days (panel) 365 days (panel)

* For Singapore citizens aged 35.

Prudential’s PruShield Plus is the most affordable of the lot, and it offers a whole year’s coverage after hospitalisation, which seems like excellent value to me.

NTUC Enhanced IncomeShield Advantage is also quite affordable. But note that the pre- and post-hospitalisation coverage is shorter than Prudential.

It’s worth mentioning that Raffles Shield A allows you to add on a Raffles Hospital option to your Class A IP so you can stay in some sort of private hospital. This works out to be cheaper than going for one of the full private IPs below.

Integrated Shield comparison 2021: Private hospital IPs

All 7 insurers also offer private hospital IPs for maximum financial protection:

Insurer Annual premium* Rider premium* Annual claim limit Pre-hospitalisation  Post-hospitalisation 
AIA  $610 $459 $2 million (panel) 13 months (panel) 13 months (panel)
Aviva  $710 $912 $2 million (panel) 180 days (panel) 365 days (panel)
AXA  $596 $312 $1 million 180 days 365 days
Great Eastern  $596 $415 $1.5 million 120 days 365 days (panel)
NTUC Income $685 $632 $1.5 million 180 days (panel) 180 days (panel)
Prudential  $627 $502 $1.2 million 180 days 365 days
Raffles  $649 $297 $1.5 million (panel) 180 days (panel) 365 days (panel)

* For Singapore citizens aged 35.

Considering the insane cost of private healthcare in Singapore, the premiums for AXA Shield Plan A and Great Eastern Supreme Health P Plus seem really cheap.

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However, if you’re willing to pay a bit more for ultra-comprehensive coverage, AIA Healthshield Gold Max A has the highest levels of coverage on the market.

3 tips for keeping health insurance affordable

If you’re looking for the most expensive tier — private hospital IPs — I don’t blame you. We’ve all heard enough bad stories about public healthcare to understand why some people would rather pay more to not be stuck in there.

But private IPs can get expensive. So here are 3 tips to help keep your premiums affordable:

1. Consider whether to buy a rider

After you buy an Integrated Shield plan, you still need to pay some of your hospital bills either out of pocket or from Medisave.

A deductible (up to $3,500) and co-payment (10 per cent of your bill) will kick in before the insurer will pay the rest of the claim — somewhat like car insurance excess. So for a $20,000 private hospital bill, that’s $3,500 + $2,000 = $5,500.

An IP “rider” covers most of the above so you only need to co-pay 5 per cent instead. So, for that $20,000 bill, you fork out $1,000 as co-payment. However, rider premiums can cost almost as much as the IP itself, and you have to pay for it in cash (no Medisave).

In our opinion, it does makes sense to get a rider if it’s cheap and you have the budget for it. But you can also get away with no rider if you have enough Medisave or cash savings.

2. Opt for an insurer with a panel

Insurers aren’t charities; they have to remain profitable. Therefore, if customers make too many claims, they may decide to sneakily revise their premiums upwards.

But it’s not just customers at fault. Some medical practices also overcharge once they know that an insurer is footing the bill. Either way, this results in high costs for the insurers, who would then pass it on in the form of higher premiums.

ALSO READ: 5 top international health insurance plans in Singapore 2021

The solution is to look for insurers that work with a panel, such as AIA, who has a list of Preferred Providers. Yes, it’s a hassle to have to go through a panel… but it also means that the insurer is trying to control their costs and hopefully keep our premiums from inflating too much.

3. Compare every year before renewing

Once your annual Integrated Shield plan expires, you are not obligated to renew it.

PHOTO: MoneySmart

This article was first published in MoneySmart.