Downgrade to standard Integrated Shield Plan? Balance benefits and savings first.

By | April 7, 2016

sg hospital ward-B1
With the launch of the standard Integrated Shield Plan (IP) plan come 1 May 2016, Singaporeans will have another affordable option for their healthcare needs.

All the 6 health insurers – Aviva, AIA, AXA Life, Great Eastern, Prudential, NTUC Income – will offer this plan that provides coverage on top of Medishield Life (ML). The benefits are identical but premiums are not standardised.

What does the standard IP plan cover?
It is a no-frills plan that covers medical expenses pegged to public hospital B1 class. Patients can choose their doctors and stay in air conditioned rooms.

Who are the target audience for this plan?
The standard IP plan would likely appeal to those who want more coverage than their basic Medishield Life (ML) and those who are looking to downgrade from their existing IP plan (reason being premiums become too costly as one grows older).

For people who are on the basic IP plan, the introduction of the standard IP plan presents an opportunity for them to switch to this plan. But would they be missing out on some important benefits that could add up to a substantial amount?

Salient differences between the new standard IP and most IPs
Limitations of standard IP:

  • No as-charged benefits –  This means that there are pre-determined claim limits. For example, there are limits for daily room and board (normal ward $1,700/day, ICU $2,900/day), surgical costs and so on.
  • $150,000 annual limit on claims – A patient who is frequently in and out of hospital may chalk up bills in excess of this within one year. Note that the excess amount will not be covered.
  • No provision for pre and post hospitalization treatments – For non standard IP, this is an as charged benefit covering up to 90 or 100 days, depending on the insurer. This includes specialist consultations, tests and follow up outpatient visits and treatments.

Not having as-charged benefits, in my opinion, is a big no no when it comes to one’s health insurance. Being subject to claim limits is a needless stressor, especially, when the focus should be on recuperation and getting well.

My preference is to get the best plan now while I can still afford it and then downgrade to a lower plan when I am older and when premiums are higher.

Two things you can consider to help lower your IP premium:

  • Downgrade the rider – If you have a full rider i.e. covers deductible (pegged to class ward) and 10% co-insurance, you may want to downgrade to covering only the co-insurance portion.Remember this – Deductible is a fixed amount that we know upfront whereas co-insurance is a variable amount. Aviva caps the co-insurance payment at $25,500 per policy year.
  • Downgrade your current IP cover – Ask yourself whether you are prepared to go a public hospital for your medical needs.

The dollars and cents do matter. However, do not be penny wise, pound foolish. Weigh the savings versus the benefits you will be giving up and then make an informed decision.

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