Singapore’s first universal health insurance Medishield Life has taken effect today (Nov 1) and will cover Singapore citizens and Permanent Residents for large hospital bills and expensive outpatient treatments. Those with pre-existing conditions will also be covered but their insurance premiums will be adjusted upwards on a case-by-case basis.

Health insurance is nationalised for the first time in Singapore after years of failure by the private insurance model to provide affordable healthcare for the masses. Medishield Life is mandatory and payment is automatically deducted from CPF’s Medisave account. Penalty for deliberately defaulting Medishield Life premiums payment will result in a fine and a jail sentence. Those who do not pay Medishield Life will not be allowed to leave Singapore and the government will take legal actions by suing the defaulter.

Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who permanently resides overseas are not spared from the charge. According to the Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, this group of people will enjoy the benefits when they returned to Singapore. However, this arrangement has met with severe opposition from overseas Singaporeans. Overseas Singaporeans who are PRs of another country reasoned that they are already permanently living in another country and that paying for health insurance in Singapore alongside their overseas coverage is akin to double taxation. The Singapore Government however refused to budge.

In local forums and on Facebook, overseas Singaporeans expressed their dissatisfaction with many saying that they are considering giving up the Singapore citizenship now when there wasn’t such a need in the past.