5 Healthcare Cost Statistics in Singapore (2021): How High Is It?


That’s what most would think about the cost of living in Singapore.

How about the medical costs? Are they even more expensive?

Let’s find out.

Here’s a compilation of the most important statistics on healthcare costs in Singapore.

(Updated from time to time to reflect the latest information.)

So, read on!

Table Of Contents

A Quick Overview of the Healthcare in Singapore

Singaporeans enjoy one of the longest life expectancy in the world.

current and future life expectancy in singapore

One of the reasons is because of the early detection (and prevention) of chronic diseases and critical illnesses, thus prolonging the life of patients.

However, the picture is not entirely rosy.

Singaporeans are now spending more years in ill health – 10.6 years to be exact.

Which makes the topic of healthcare costs even more significant.

Let’s take a look at the stats.

1) Inflation Rate for Medical Costs is 10% per Year

The inflation rate measures the rise in price of a basket of goods over a period of time, usually yearly.

Generally, in Singapore, we know that the living costs are increasing.

But let’s break it down and look at the general inflation rate and the inflation rate for medical costs.

In short, the inflation rate for medical costs is much higher than the general one.

From a study done by AON, the gross medical inflation rate for 2017 and 2018 is at 10%, which exceeds the global medical inflation rate of 8.4%.

And the medical inflation rate for 2019 was expected to rise to 10.1%.

In stark contrast, the general inflation rate in 2018 was 1% and expected to be 1.4% in 2019.

What does all these mean?

When the cost of goods are increasing, that’s fine if your income increases at the same pace.

However, can your income cope with a 10% increase yearly?

If not, there comes a time when it gets out of hand.

But why are medical costs skyrocketing?

There are a few reasons behind this and I’ll go into details in the later parts.

2) The Government Spends $10 Billion a Year on Healthcare

Yes, the government spends a lot on healthcare.

Here are the government health expenditure over the years:

government expenditure on health
Source: data.gov.sg
Financial YearGovernment Health Expenditure (S$ Million)

As you can see, the health expenditure in Financial Year 2017 is at $9,764.3 million. Close to $10 billion. That’s $10,000,000,000.

And the finance minister, Heng Swee Keat, expects the spending to go up by at least $3 billion by year 2020, which will make the total spending to be at $13 billion.

You can see that the government is making it a focus because in comparison, the spending on education is $13,090,000,000 in 2018.

Perhaps, it’s because Singapore depends largely on its people; she can’t rely on natural resources. So to increase productivity (and the economy), the well-being of the population is important.

So what are they spending on?

Here are some areas that the government is spending on:

  • Infrastructure
    • With an aging population, more hospitals are needed
    • It also makes up for the increased demand for hospital beds
  • Manpower
    • Additional 30,000 healthcare workers are needed between 2015 to 2020 to support the increased need for healthcare services
    • Increase intake for medical professionals
  • Technology
    • For example, the introduction of bed transporters reduces the no. of ppl needed to move a bed with a patient in it bringing up overall productivity
    • An electronic device for patients to easily show vital signs
  • Medical Safety Needs
    • More financial help to support the lower and middle income
    • Initiatives like the community health assistance scheme (Chas)
    • MediShield Life to help Singaporeans pay hospital bill

But the rapid increase in healthcare spending proves to be unsustainable.

That’s why the best way is for its residents to practice healthy living so they don’t need to rely too much on healthcare.

Which is why you can see lots of information on chronic illnesses such as diabetes to create more awareness in hopes that we stay healthy.

3) The Average Hospital Bill for Public and Private Hospitals

Whether it’s an accident or an illness, the hospital is the first place you’ll visit.

That’s why Singaporeans are always concerned about how much the hospital bills will cost.

In short, the costs greatly differs between private and public hospitals for obvious reasons, but they have similar cost structures.

They can be broken down into outpatient and inpatient treatments.

Inpatient treatment typically requires being warded (or a day-surgery). Outpatient treatment doesn’t require any stays.

Here are the average hospital bill sizes in Singapore:

The average bill size for public hospitals

  • Medical specialities: $1,012 to 7,876
  • Surgical specialties: $1,638 to 10,541

The average bill size for private hospitals

  • Medical specialties: $3,906 to $24,687
  • Surgical specialties: $8,109 to $18,993

But these figures are just an average.

Let’s look at more specific examples.

4) The Cost of Treating Critical Illnesses Can Be $100,000 to $200,000 Yearly

Most Singaporeans are not afraid of the small and minor injures.

Why? Because not only are they cheaper to treat, they’re also not life-threatening.

What are they more afraid of?

Critical illnesses – the bigger bad boys.

These are the top 5 critical illnesses (CI) in Singapore:

  • Major Cancers
  • Heart Attack of Specified Severity
  • Coronary Artery By-Pass Surgery
  • Stroke with Permanent Neurological Deficit
  • End Stage Kidney Failure

And they represent more than 90% of all critical illness claims.

more than 90% of CI claims come from 5 CIs

One of the most important CI is cancer.

Because cancer makes up the bulk of the CI claims:

causes of all critical illness claims

And here are other statistics on cancer:

  • 39 people are diagnosed every day
  • 1 in 4-5 Singaporeans are expected to get cancer in their lifetime
  • Almost 1 in every 3 deaths is due to cancer

That being said, the costs of treating cancer is the next biggest worry.

It requires a longer period of treatment which will hit your savings hard.

A late-stage cancer treatment can cost $100,000 to $200,000 yearly.

average cost of cancer treatment singapore

Other than cancer, here are some costs for heart-related conditions:

Type of TreatmentType of Hospital50th Percentile (Median)
Heart, Expansion of Blocked Heart VesselsPrivate$32,471
Public (Unsubsidised)$15,177
Public (Subsidised)$5,598

And here are some costs for stroke:

Type of TreatmentType of Hospital50th Percentile (Median)
Brain, Blood Clot or Bleeding, StrokePrivate$23,335
Public (Unsubsidised)$7,804
Public (Subsidised)$2,601

5) The Cost of Health Insurance Soared But Still Remains Affordable

One reason for the rise in healthcare costs (reflected in the inflation rate) is because of health insurance.

In a report by Channel News Asia, hospitalisation costs, especially inpatient costs contributed to this high inflation rate.

Furthermore, insurers dealing in the private healthcare space experienced a claims incidence rate more than double of that from the public system and the average bill size ballooned.

The Straits Times also pointed out that one reason to this is because doctors may be overcharging (and over-treating) which brought the bill up to more than what’s required, especially when the patient is on an Integrated Shield Plan (IP) with a full rider attached.

This sparked an industry wide change as insurers struggle to cope with more frequent and bigger claims that proved to be unsustainable.

That’s why if you have an IP with full rider, you might have received letters to notify you of heavily increased premiums or discontinuation.

And now (after the new changes), riders on such private shield plans require the insured to make at least a 5% co-payment.

Even with this, why is it still affordable?

At the end of the day, you’re provided with MediShield Life for the basic coverage, and its premiums are entirely payable by MediSave.

You have a choice to enhance this cover; you just need to pay more.

Depending on your needs, you can choose to not go for the best of the best – premiums for private hospitals with “full” riders are extremely expensive now.

Instead, consider “value” options where premiums are more affordable yet still adequately cover potentially big medical bills.

What’s Next?

In Singapore, healthcare is expensive, and will likely to be that way for the foreseeable future.

One of the best ways to keep the cost of healthcare low is simple. And that is to practise healthy living.

But having a safety net gives greater assurance when things turn sour.

That backup reduces the risk of large medical bills, in the form of medical insurance.

So, take some time and learn more about the national healthcare scheme, MediShield Life and its upgrade, Integrated Shield Plan now.

Abram Lim

With over 7 years of experience in the financial advisory industry, and previous stints in Citibank and UOB, Abram eagerly shares his knowledge by publishing research-backed articles. Learn more about Abram