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With So Many Integrated Shield Plans Available, How Do You Decide Which to Choose?

MoneySmart logo MoneySmart 20/7/2018 Peter Lin
a close up of a sign: How to choose and Integrated Shield Plan © Provided by Catapult Ventures Pte Ltd How to choose and Integrated Shield Plan 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. That includes Raffles Medical Group's health insurance arm, the latest private insurer to be allowed to offer integrated shield plans to Singaporeans. Raffles Health Insurance's IP will only be available from 1 Aug 2018, so we won't be comparing it for now. Each insurer offers a few options for their integrated shield plans, which means Singaporeans will have over 22 options to choose from. That’s more options than California Pizza Kitchen has pizzas. But believe it or not, it’s easier to choose an integrated shield plan than to decide on which pizza to eat for dinner. This is because there are just 3 things you need to look out for when making your choice: length of coverage, limit of coverage and (of course) price of premiums. We'll go into each one in detail:

1. Length of coverage - can you claim for recovery treatment?

While it is important for health insurance to cover expensive hospitalisation costs, it is often pre-hospitalisation and post-hospitalisation that may end up costing more than any amount of surgery. This is because major illnesses like heart attacks, cancer and stroke, and even major accidents, often take several months to recover from. All integrated shield plans cover you for pre-hospitalisation and post-hospitalisation treatment “as charged”. “As charged” means there is no limit on claims for eligible expenses. However, the actual length of cover differs. Here’s how the 6 integrated shield plans compare for Class A wards.
Integrated Shield Plan Pre-hospitalisation Post-hospitalisation cover
AXA Shield Plan B 180 days 365 days
Prudential PruShield Plus 180 days 365 days
Great Eastern Supreme Health A Plus 120 days 180 days
AIA HealthShield Gold Max B 100 days 100 days
NTUC Income Enhanced IncomeShield Advantage 90 days 90 days
Aviva MyShield Plan 2 90 days 90 days
It’s important to note that MediShield Life does not cover pre-hospitalisation and post-hospitalisation treatment. This additional coverage is only found in private integrated shield plans.

2. Annual coverage limit - how much can you claim each year?

It’s a mistake to think you’re saving money by choosing an integrated shield plan with a lower premium. In many cases, lower premiums mean lower coverage. Doesn’t make sense to scrimp on your integrated shield plan premium, and then find out after the fact that it doesn’t cover your entire medical bill. Instead of saving money, you’ll end up spending more should you get medical help. A good integrated shield plan will cover most of your medical bills, but be careful about the annual coverage limit. This refers to how much you can claim up to each year. Unlike things like vacations, you can't decide how many times you'll be falling sick each year. So choose wisely - the last thing you want is to exceed this limit and end up paying out of your pocket. Here are some of the largest annual coverage limits available on the market today. Again, we’ll look at coverage up to Class A wards.
Integrated Shield Plan Annual Coverage Limit
NTUC Income Enhanced IncomeShield Advantage $1,000,000
Great Eastern Supreme Health A Plus $1,000,000
Aviva MyShield Plan 2 $600,000
Prudential PruShield Plus $600,000
AXA Shield Plan B $550,000
AIA HealthShield Gold Max B $450,000
Just to put things in perspective, according to the Ministry of Health, the cost of a week’s hospitalisation in a Class A ward for a major procedure like open heart surgery is about $35,000 on average and can cost more than $45,000 in some cases.

3. Price of premiums - how much are you paying for the IP?

First of all, you should know that you can use Medisave to pay for part of your IP premium. This "subsidy" explains why IPs are so popular in Singapore. IP premiums have 2 components: the MediShield Life portion (fully payable through Medisave) + the private insurer portion (payable through Medisave up to government stipulated withdrawal limits). This is how much Class A integrated shield plans cost for someone between 31 to 35 years old. The cost includes the MediShield Life premium of $310 per year for this age group:
Integrated Shield Plan Annual Premium
NTUC Income Enhanced IncomeShield Advantage $414
Great Eastern Supreme Health A Plus $418
Prudential PruShield Plus $423
AIA HealthShield Gold Max B $463
AXA Shield Plan B $466
Aviva MyShield Plan 2 $472.21
(Note: The 7th private insurer Raffles Health Insurance claims that their premiums are cheaper - 20% to 30% lower than market rates. But these plans have lower coverage as they are meant for people who are already enjoy workplace health insurance, and only need to fill in some gaps in that coverage.) Thanks to the newly-added Medisave additional withdrawal limits (AWLs), you can pay for a part of or all of your IP premium through Medisave. For those aged 31 – 35, the AWL is $300. Unfortunately, premiums for integrated shield plans go up with age, and while the AWL also increases as you age, it’s not enough to cover your entire premium. This essentially means that, when you get older, you will start paying for your integrated shield plan premium with cash. So do be prepared for that. On that note, it must also be pointed out that while most of these premiums will remain the same from ages 31 to 40, check how steeply the premium rises when you age into the next tier.

Summary: Class A integrated shield plans comparison

Integrated Shield Plan Pre-hospitalisation/Post-hospitalisation cover Annual Coverage Limit Annual Premium (31 – 35 years old)
Prudential PruShield Plus 180 days/365 days $600,000 $423
AXA Shield Plan B 180 days/365 days $550,000 $466
Great Eastern Supreme Health A Plus 120 days/180 days $1,000,000 $418
AIA HealthShield Gold Max B 100 days/100 days $450,000 $463
NTUC Income Enhanced IncomeShield Advantage 90 days/90 days $1,000,000 $414
Aviva MyShield Plan 2 90 days/90 days $400,000 $472.21
Ultimately, while the cost of an annual premium is important, what’s more crucial is that you should pick an integrated shield plan based on the level of coverage you require. Which integrated shield plan do you plan to get? Tell us in the comments!  

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