Premium Hike for Enhanced IncomeShield Plus and Assist Riders (Again) – Maintain or Downgrade?

As of 1st May 2020, the premiums for Enhanced IncomeShield’s Plus and Assist Riders have increased again. This follows price hikes in 2018 and 2016, and seems like a biennial pattern now.

This time, only Assist and Plus riders are affected by the premium hike, while Enhanced IncomeShield, and the newer Deluxe and Classic Care Riders are unchanged, possibly in a bid to push existing policyholders towards the newer plans.

The premium increases range from 15% to a staggering 65% for the riders of Preferred (private hospitalisation coverage) plans, and between 5% to 30% for riders of Advantage (A ward restructured hospitalisation coverage).

My current plan

I’m on Preferred Plan with Assist Rider, and the old annual premium is $375 for Preferred Plan and $341 for Assist Rider (new premium: $409).

Comparatively, Plus Rider is $727, and the new premium is an exorbitant $981.

I have always been against 100% coverage riders like Plus Rider, so I opted for Assist Rider instead. My maximum co-payment per policy year is $3,000, which means that’s my maximum risk within a year. Paying an additional $400 to $600 every year hardly seems wise to hedge against a risk that is at worst $3,000 in a year, assuming I even get hospitalised at all.

Options, options

PlanRiderTotal PremiumCash Outlay
Preferred
$375
Assist
$409
$784$484
Preferred
$375
Classic
$205
$580$280
Advantage
$104
Assist
$136
$240$136
Advantage
$104
Classic
$94
$198$94

Maintaining at Preferred + Assist Rider seems quite untenable for me. Together with Medisave Life premiums of $310, it’s a cool total of $1,094 (of which $610 is payable by Medisave), and the premiums are just going to rise with my age and medical inflation.

The dilemma I have is whether to maintain private hospitalisation coverage and drop to classic rider, or drop my ward eligibility entirely to just restructured hospitals.

Private vs Restructured

A longstanding debate is whether private hospitalisation coverage is necessary. It’s not uncommon to hear of long wait times at public hospitals.

To pay almost double the premium annually, however, to have better wait times in the unlikely scenario that I’d be hospitalised seems really spend-thrifty.

Unfortunately – actually, rather fortunately – I don’t have personal experience whether private hospitals have a much better quality of care compared to restructured hospitals, and I can only rely on anecdotal accounts from friends who have been hospitalised before that our public healthcare level isn’t too shabby.

And even with private hospitalisation coverage, I’d choose to go to a restructured hospital out of prudence on the off chance the expenses are somehow not claimable.

Private hospitalisation and its coverage seem like luxuries that lower SES people can do without. Seems pretty straightforward that I’ll downgrade.

Classic vs Assist Rider

I can opt for further cost savings by going for the Classic Rider. For people who purchase Assist Rider after 7th March 2018, you’d be transited to the new Classic or Deluxe Care Riders.

There are two considerations to picking Deluxe/Classic Rider:

Non-panel specialists
The first is that there’d be no cap to the co-payment if one seeks treatment from practitioners that are not on NTUC Income’s selected panel. This affects private specialists since all government hospitals are included in their panel.

If I were to downgrade to Advantage plan, this wouldn’t be too much of an issue since one isn’t likely to go for private specialists under Advantage plan which is designed for up to A ward hospitalisation. Nonetheless, Assist Rider will still provide better coverage if one seeks treatment from a non-panel specialist because Assist Rider caps the co-payment while Classic Care Rider will not.

Hospital cash benefit
Assist Rider also gives some cash per day of hospitalisation if the policyholder chooses a ward below his maximum eligibility (B1 and below for Advantage). Hospital cash plans typically cost $100 to $200 per year (albeit with a few more bells and whistles), so paying the slightly higher premium of Assist Rider compared to Classic Care Rider is a pretty good deal.

Conclusion

Looks like I’m going to downgrade from Preferred + Assist ($784) to Advantage + Assist ($240). That’s more than $500 in premium savings a year, and that figure is just going to grow with each passing year.

Have you reviewed your hospitalisation plans? Let me know if you have decided to downgrade or maintain your plan.

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6 thoughts on “Premium Hike for Enhanced IncomeShield Plus and Assist Riders (Again) – Maintain or Downgrade?”

  1. Look at Raffles Shield A with Raffles Hospital Option. U can add the Raffles key rider. Although Raffles becomes the only private hospital, I saved over 500 for a 45 year old.

    1. That’s a good option if you wish to have some form of private hospitalisation coverage, but it’s still more expensive and the amounts add up every year. Don’t think I want to keep paying for something especially since I’m not entirely convinced private hospitals are much better aside from wait times.

  2. Even with copayment shield plans, expect premiums for private & A class restructured to increase by 10%-15% annually over the long term, in line with Singapore’s healthcare inflation.

    Specialists in restructured can be more experienced and current than private, since they experience more patients & get to enjoy taxpayer funded ongoing professional trainings and courses. But their caseload tends to be higher than private.

    So although as A class or even B1 class you can schedule faster appts & surgeries, if there are other more urgent cases you may still need to wait a little bit. Of course if yours is a CI type case then as A class or B1 class usually they’ll expedite you.

    1. Yeah the premiums are really nuts now and it’s just going to increase further in future. Private hospitalisation seems more for the high SES anyway.

  3. I beg to differ.

    My mum was diagnosed with colon cancer in a restructured hospital a few months ago. And our discussion with the consultants was that the earliest date for surgery was 4 weeks away. When DORSCON was raised to orange, the new update was they could not even commit a date for surgery.

    As the prognosis was still favorable for my mum, we swtich to private immediately and was recommend an adjunct Prof to be her surgeon. The surgeon wanted to do the surgery on the very day of the consultant. However due to some complication, the surgery went ahead the next afternoon. This is something you can never get at restructured whether you can pay for Class A or not.

    For her follow-up, we could schedule 3 consultations with different doctors in the money and be done in the morning. This is also not possible with restructured meaning more trips to hospital which is not easy for the patient and especially this period.

    Fortunately, we are covered for private hospital. It’s easy to say let’s cut cost from here, but if you are only in your 30s with more than half a century of lifespan to go, it make perfect sense to get the best possible care available. If you are 80, then I guess it’s not opportunity cost of missing lifespan is a lot smaller.

    1. Hi DL, thanks for sharing your story and I hope your mum is well. May I check if your mum was a subsidised patient in the restructured hospital, or if you tried to get her admitted as a private patient with the restructured hospital?

      As far as I know, you can get expedited care if you are willing to pay non-subsidised rate as a private patient even in restructured hospitals, and Shield plans covering for restructured hospitals will still cover this.

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