In Singapore, we enjoy a mandatory national basic health insurance coverage courtesy of MediShield Life. Administered by CPF, MediShield Life protects all Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) against large hospital bills as well as selected inpatient and outpatient treatments, such as kidney dialysis and chemotherapy.
For the benefit of this health insurance, we need to pay a yearly premium, which can be fully paid from our MediSave Account. Many people also purchase private integrated shield plans (IPs) to boost the basic health coverage they already enjoy under MediShield Life.
What If I Am Living Overseas?
As MediShield Life is a mandatory insurance scheme for Singaporeans and PRs, one common question is whether those living overseas are covered under MediShield Life.
The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that those living overseas continue to enjoy coverage under MediShield Life, only if they return to Singapore for treatment. Moreover, Singaporeans and PRs living overseas could only be going for short-term stints, and when they return to Singapore, they continue to be covered regardless of any health conditions they may have developed.
What If I Am Living Overseas, And Don’t Have Any Intentions Of Returning To Singapore?
Singaporeans and PRs living overseas, and don’t have any intentions of returning to the country, may feel unfairly penalised as they have to continue paying MediShield Life premiums while never enjoying any health coverage. Worse still, they have to fork out an additional amount for health coverage in the location they are living.
To make it fair to Singaporeans who are never going to benefit from MediShield Life, this group of people can apply for a suspension of MediShield Life premium collection. To be granted a suspension of premium collection, Singaporeans and PRs must meet all the following eligibility criteria:
- Singapore Citizen
- Living outside Singapore permanently with no intention to reside in Singapore, based on the following supporting indicators:
- Possess a valid permanent residency permit in their country of residence;
- Resided outside Singapore for at least five years immediately preceding the date of receipt of the applications by the CPF Board, except for short visits (not exceeding 140 days over a five-year period);
- Have completed their full-time National Service obligation, or are not required to serve full-time National Service; and
- Are able to afford healthcare treatment in their country of residence, and declare that they do not need to rely on MediShield Life in Singapore
The obvious question here is then what happens when such a person ends up returning to Singapore or fails to meet any of the eligibility criteria after successfully being granted a suspension of premium.
This isn’t a really difficult scenario to imagine. A Singaporean living abroad could have his PR status rescinded, consequentially meaning that the person is no longer able to enjoy suspension of their MediShield Life premiums.
Another scenario could see certain Singaporeans trying to game the system, only returning home if they ever develop a serious health condition to enjoy subsidised treatment.
In such a scenario, these Singaporeans will still enjoy coverage of they ever return. However, they will be required to pay up the full sum of premiums suspension that they have not paid during their years away from Singapore, as well as compounded interest on the amount they owe.
What About Using My MediSave Account Balances?
At this point, we should note that being able to use our MediSave Account balances while overseas is an entirely separate issue from being covered under MediShield Life.
There are two main ways Singaporeans living overseas can make use of their MediSave Account balances:
# 1 To pay for their MediShield Life premiums and Integrated Shield Plan premiums, if they wish to continue coverage once they return to Singapore.
They can also pay for other insurance related premiums, such as our severe disability insurance schemes, including the current ElderShield and ElderShield Supplements or the future CareShield Life.
They may also choose to pay for such premiums for their loved ones.
# 2 To pay for overseas medical treatments and hospitalisation for themselves or their immediate family members. However, this is subjected to the following conditions:
– The patient must be a Singapore Citizen or PR of Singapore;
– The patient is normally residing in Singapore and must be referred for the overseas treatment through a MediSave-accredited institution/ referral centre in Singapore; and
– The use of MediSave Account balances is only limited to hospitalisation or day surgery. It cannot be used for outpatient treatments.
The CPF website also states MediSave Account balances can also be used for inpatient admission that exceeds a minimum of eight hours or medical expenses incurred in the day surgery setting, due to medical emergency or if the treatment is not available in Singapore.
Point # 2 of the conditions clearly means that someone living overseas cannot use their MediSave Account balances for hospitalisation or treatments, as they would not “normally be residing in Singapore”. However, such individuals could still use their MediSave Account balances to pay for their immediate family member’s overseas hospitalisation, should those famoly members meet the conditions.
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