In its sternest warning thus far to people who (for some reason) still travel overseas during a time the Covid-19 pandemic is worsening globally, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that Singaporean residents and Long-Term Pass holders who leave Singapore from 27 March 2020 (Friday) onwards will be charged non-subsidised rates if they are admitted to hospital for suspected Covid-19 or have onset of symptoms within 14 days of returning to Singapore.
According to the government, some 1,000 people still choose to travel out of Singapore each day. These are Singaporeans, Permanent Residents (PRs) and long-term pass holders.
The removal of subsidies for these people who still choose to travel and are admitted to the hospital for suspected Covid-19 aims to lower this number.
Here are five things we need to know about the latest announcement.
1. You get non-subsidised rates at the hospital
For those who do not know, Singapore residents (Citizens & PRs) are eligible for hospital subsidies of up to 80 per cent in public hospitals (Class B2/C Ward). Foreigners pay full price when they require hospital services in Singapore.
If you choose to travel overseas after 27 March (Friday), you will receive the non-subsidised rates at public hospitals. This is similar to how foreigners who seek treatments in Singapore would always have to pay the full price for any treatment.
2. You don't receive any coverage from MediShield Life or your Private Integrated Shield plan
Besides not enjoying any subsidies at public hospitals, Singapore residents will not be able to claim any costs from their MediShield Life or Private Integrated Shield plans for treatments arising from Covid-19.
Neither the government nor private insurers will be reimbursing you for hospital costs due to Covid-19 if you still choose to travel overseas after 27 March.
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3. Onset of symptoms within 14 days
For those who still choose to travel (by the way, ignorance isn't an excuse) despite the stern warnings already explicitly put forth, if you are "lucky" enough that onset of Covid-19 related symptoms only occurs after 14 days from your arrival back in Singapore, you will be covered.
The reason for this is because after 14 days, it's likely that the virus was contracted locally, and not due to your travels.
4. Other hospital cash insurance may (or may not) apply
In recent weeks, there has been a proliferation of insurers stepping in to provide additional benefits for policyholders who are infected by Covid-19.
For example, some insurers and banks have policies that pay daily hospital cash payouts, if you are hospitalised for Covid-19. At the point of writing, it's unclear whether these benefits will continue to apply for those who choose to travel overseas.
If you want to know, check with your insurers directly. That said, maybe it's best you heed the government's advice and just stay in Singapore.
5. Singaporean residents will continue to receive free coverage for Covid-19
We live in unprecedented times. While Singaporeans are living with the inconvenience of not being able to travel overseas, receive guests from overseas, not being able to visit pubs and movie theatre, what we have to deal with us (thus far) is nothing compared to most other countries and cities around the world.
With one of the most robust healthcare systems in the world, our government has stepped up to cover the medical cost of Covid-19 among Singapore residents. Testing and hospital fees are paid for by the government, and so are quarantine facilities for those who require them.
As socially responsible citizens, let's do our part.
Say "no" to travelling until things are back to normal and continue practising good hygiene habits. Because what's the point of asking the government to do more if we can't even heed the advice they give us?
For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.
This article was first published in Dollars and Sense.