With the recent proposed enhancements for MediShield Life
, some people may wonder:
“Does it still make sense to upgrade to private Integrated Shield plans? Will MediShield Life be sufficient?”
Integrated Shield plans are essentially made up of MediShield and a Medisave-approved enhancement plan by a private insurer, hence the name integrated. Such plans are meant to provide more comprehensive coverage than the basic Medishield plans and can be purchased using CPF Medisave.
Let’s take a look at some of the differences between Integrated Shield plans and MediShield Life:
1) Option to secure comprehensive coverage in Private Hospitals with Integrated Shield plans.
MediShield Life is designed to cover for large hospitalisation bills in Class B2 and C ward in government hospitals.
While government hospitals do provide professional medical care, sometimes you have to be prepared to wait for treatment. I recall a lady’s experience when she had to transfer her father from a government hospital to a private hospital because she didn’t want to risk waiting 3 months at a government hospital for her father to do a heart surgery.
If you prefer the flexibility of seeking treatment from private hospitals and not have to worry about forking a huge amount out of pocket, then choosing a private integrated shield plan that covers for private hospitals can provide greater peace of mind.
2) As- charged coverage for Integrated Shield plans instead of specific limits
MediShield Life has claim limits for different portions of the bill e.g daily ward charges and surgical procedures. Although these claim limits have been recently raised to be relevant to current rates in government hospitals, the challenge is that as medical bills rises with inflation, there is a risk of the bill size exceeding the limits again. And when that happens, the excess will have to be borne by patients themselves.
Integrated shield plans typically come with As-charged coverage instead of hard limits, you can submit the actual bill amount for claim without worrying about the individual sub limits, and this helps to protect against medical inflation.
Do note that co-insurance and deductible are still applicable with Integrated shield plans, as with MediShield Life. And that brings me to another difference between Integrated Shield plans and MediShield Life.
3) Option to cover the co-insurance and deductible portion of the bill
Under both MediShield Life and Integrated Shield plans, we are expected to pay for a portion of the bills known as co-insurance and deductible.
However private insurers providing Integrated Shield plans offer the option of purchasing cash riders (top ups on top of the basic plans) which cover for the deductible and co-insurance or at least reduce the amount of out of pocket expenses.
So if you prefer to have the peace of mind knowing your medical bill can be covered from the first dollar, then such riders to Integrated Shield plans would come in handy.
4) Coverage for pre- and post hospitalisation related follow up charges
MediShield Life covers mainly for inpatient and selected outpatient treatment like chemotherapy and dialysis. However it does not cover for specialist scans or consultation prior to hospitalisation nor post hospitalisation follow up treatment.
Integrated Shield plans include these benefits, typically for bills incurred within 90 days before and after hospotalisation, some even longer.
In a nutshell, if you value the freedom of choice to seek treatment in private hospitals and not have to worry about rising medical bills due to inflation, or if you want to be covered for pre and post hospitalisation related expenses and prefer not to co-pay part of the bill, then integrated shield plans would still be something worth looking at for a greater peace of mind.
With the enhancements in MediShield Life, there would inevitably be an increase in premiums and this would also translate into an increase in premiums for Integrated Shield plans. As to how much would be the increase in premiums, that would be revealed in due course once the MediShield Life premiums are finalised and the private insurers update their premiums.
Ultimately, here are two questions to consider in determining whether to upgrade or not
- Do you value the enhanced coverage and peace of mind enough to pay more for them?
- Are the premiums affordable and can it be manageable for you?
For now, most of the existing premiums for Integrated Shields plans are within the Medisave withdrawal limits and does not require cash top ups for working adults up to their 50s. Personally I feel it would be worthwhile for working adults who can afford to pay for better coverage options to upgrade to Integrated Shield plans while they are healthy. After all such plans are renewable on a yearly basis and you always have the option of falling back upon MediShield Life should the premiums become unmanageable.
Do remember for medical insurance, it’s usually easier to downgrade then to upgrade your coverage especially when health condition changes.