Woman who is hopeful about managing the cost of her cancer treatments.

Why cancer insurance is worth considering

If you’ve only got a minute,

  • Cancer treatment can be expensive. Cancer drug spending grew 20% per year from 2016 to 2019.
  • Government schemes such as MediSave and MediShield Life can help, but may not be enough
  • Consider cancer insurance such as CancerCare to provide lump-sum payout even in early-stage of cancer.

This article is Part 2 of a two-part series on the realities of cancer in Singapore.

Read Part 1: Cost of treating cancer in Singapore

Cancer treatment is expensive, especially if the treatment is extended over a long period of time.

There are also non-medical costs to consider:

  • Potential loss of income if you’re unable to work during the period of treatment and recovery that could range from a few months to a couple of years
  • Need to employ domestic help for household chores if the patient is the main caregiver and homemaker in the family

That’s why private health insurance – cancer insurance in particular – is a serious option.

(Read more: Cost of battling cancer in Singapore)

Government schemes help, but may not be enough

Singaporeans are covered by government subsidies of up to 80% at government-funded hospitals. Note that you’ll have to opt to stay in a subsidised ward (B2/C) in public hospitals to qualify for these subsidies.

MediSave and MediShield Life are starting points for financial coverage for cancer and other critical illnesses. However, there are limits to claims from both MediSave and MediShield Life. Non-medical costs are also not covered by these schemes.

Since 1 September 2022, MediShield Life covers a list of clinically proven and cost-effective cancer drug treatments on a Cancer Drug List, with more granular claim limits ranging from $200 to $9,600 per month, to be better aligned to the different costs of cancer drug treatments. In addition, it covers $1,200 per year for outpatient cancer drug services.


What the government schemes cover, and don’t cover

Scheme Details
MediSave What is it
  • A compulsory medical savings scheme for Singaporeans.
  • You can use MediSave for some cancer investigations, surgery, medication, and hospitalisation.
  • There are limits on MediSave withdrawals. Take inpatient surgery for example: the limit is S$450 per day for hospital charges for normal ward, and up to S$50 for doctor’s daily attendance fees at the National Cancer Centre Singapore1.
  • There are also limits for the different categories of surgeries, ranging from S$250-S$7,550.
  • Given the potentially large expenses for cancer treatment, you have to be mindful whether you have enough in your MediSave account to pay for all the costs that could mount up.
MediShield Life What is it
  • A medical insurance scheme operated by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board
  • Provides additional medical insurance coverage for large hospitalisation bills that cannot be adequately covered by MediSave.
  • Such large hospitalisation bills usually happen from serious and/or prolonged illness such as cancer.
  • There are limits to the payouts from MediShield Life. The maximum claim limit per year is S$150,000.
  • Payouts are also pegged to B2/C-type wards in public hospitals.
  • Coverage of $200-$9,600 per month, depending on cancer drug treatment on MOH’s Cancer Drug List. $1,200 per year for Cancer Drug Services

The role of private health insurance in battling cancer

Comprehensive private health insurance is a broader option if you can afford it. However, not all of these policies have adequate coverage for cancer. Read the fine print. If your policy is one of these, it may be worth getting an additional policy that’s specific to cancer care.

But if all you want is coverage for cancer, there are specific policies at rates that are generally cheaper than comprehensive health coverage.

A case study: how CancerCare insurance policy can help

Mr. Tan is a Singaporean citizen with a family of four: wife and two married daughters. Aged 55, he enjoys taking care of the grandchildren, and is looking forward to his golden years.

He has always led a healthy lifestyle, but was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. His treatment involved a colonscopy for diagnosis, and subsequent surgery to remove part of his intestine and rectum.

  1. If he opted for subsidised wards in a public hospital, he would need MediSave and MediShield Life to help cover the remaining S$6,056* bill.
  2. If he opted for an unsubsidised B1 ward, his bill would increase to S$24,946*.
  3. And if he consulted with a specialist at a private hospital, his out-of-pocket costs would increase to S$48,851*.

*Treatment costs source: Ministry of Health, ‘Fee benchmarks and bill amount information’, accessed on 6 September 2022.

This however assumes no complications, and doesn’t take into account chemotherapy, follow-up checks, and screenings.

(One blogger estimates the cost of treating late-stage cancer in Singapore at $100,000 to $200,000 per year. This is a generalisation, but it is possible for treatment of some forms of late-stage cancer at private hospitals.)

With a private health insurance policy like CancerCare, Mr. Tan would be able to alleviate his financial burden from the cancer benefit payout of S$50,000 to S$150,000, depending on the type of plan he bought.

Enhance your coverage with CancerCare

Typically, cancer insurance covers only the later stages of cancer, is troublesome to apply for as it involves health checks and page after page of health declarations. In addition, cancer insurance is perceived to be expensive.

This is where CancerCare turns its head on the competition (and why we named it ‘Care’):

  • Comprehensive coverage for all stages of cancer, including early stage cancer, up to age 75
  • Affordably priced from S$8.902 /month (the cost of 2 lattes)
  • Reassuring, with 100% payout upon diagnosis with any stage of cancer3
  • Easy to apply for, with just 1 medical question to answer

If you already have cancer coverage, take this chance to review. You might find benefits from enhancing your coverage for the costs of cancer treatment and recovery.

It’s different from medical expense insurance, where your claims depend on the actual medical expenses. Having more medical expense insurance policies doesn’t necessarily provide more benefits. But with CancerCare? It’s like a booster shot to your finances when dealing with the cost of cancer treatments and recovery.

Part 1: Reality check: cost of battling cancer in Singapore.

Sources and notes
1 National Cancer Centre Singapore, accessed 15 July 2019. ‘Using Medisave’.
2 The premium amount is based on a male, aged 18. Refer to the Product Documents for the Policy Illustration and Product Summary.
3 There won’t be a cancer benefit payout if: the life insured did not survive for at least 7 days from the date of diagnosis of a cancer; the date of diagnosis of a cancer is within 90 days from the policy issue date or the date of reinstatement of this policy, whichever is later; if the life insured has contracted HIV, AIDS or any AIDS-related condition; or if cancer was pre-existing.

Disclaimers and Important Notice
This article is meant for information only and should not be relied upon as financial advice. Before making any decision to buy, sell or hold any investment or insurance product, you should seek advice from a financial adviser regarding its suitability.

All investments come with risks and you can lose money on your investment. Invest only if you understand and can monitor your investment. Diversify your investments and avoid investing a large portion of your money in a single product issuer.

Disclaimer for Investment and Life Insurance Products

DBS has partnered with major insurers in Singapore to make health insurance easily accessible online for purchase. You can now independently learn, compare and buy a plan most suited to your own needs. Find out more on DBS Health Marketplace.

Ready to start?

Speak to the Wealth Planning Manager today for a financial health check and how you can better plan your finances.

Let's Meet

Alternatively, check out NAV Planner to analyse your real-time financial health. The best part is, it’s fuss-free – we automatically work out your money flows and provide money tips.

Log in Now

You might be interested in

Thank you. Your feedback will help us serve you better.

Was this information useful?

That's great to hear. Anything you'd like to add?
We're sorry to hear that. How can we do better?
Enter only letters, numbers or @!$-(),.