Cost of healthcare in Singapore: What to consider

9th July 2020 by Lindsay Yap 3 Min ReadSingapore is known for its top-notch healthcare system – great news for all of us, though it can also mean some hefty bills! To help navigate the issues around these costs, we asked the team at Pacific Prime to give us a better understanding of how the healthcare system works, the cost of healthcare in Singapore and what you need to factor in if you want to live here as an expat.#1 No subsidies for expatsSingapore citizens and permanent residents have access to various subsidised healthcare services through government healthcare facilities. Unfortunately, expats don’t enjoy the same luxury and will be charged regular high rates. To ensure that you don’t need to pay everything out of your pocket when living in Singapore, buying a private health insurance plan is essential. #2 Public vs private healthcare in SingaporeIn Singapore, healthcare is made up of two sectors: public and private. The option you choose will have a significant effect on the price you pay. It’s common for private clinics and hospitals to have a higher price range than public alternatives. However, the difference has become less steep over recent years since the two are in direct competition. So why is the private sector more expensive? It offers a better service level to start with as well as many add-ons. Private facilities usually come with shorter waiting times and more privacy.#3 High-quality healthcarePrivate facilities may offer more perks compared to public medical centres, but you can be certain that any hospital you go to will be of a high standard. Hospitals in Singapore are equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment, well-maintained facilities and have highly-trained and caring staff. This is why the cost of healthcare in Singapore is on the high end. Both public and private facilities also ensure that the entire process is efficient from start to finish. All of these reasons and more are why many expats living in other parts of Asia visit Singapore for medical care.#4 Difference in doctors’ experienceOne option that you might have in Singapore is to choose to see either a junior or senior doctor. The local medical system values time spent practicing and experience, which means that a more senior doctor will come with a higher rate.#5 Costs and locationLocation is a key factor to consider when you’re choosing a clinic or hospital. Prices can vary depending on where the facility is located. For instance, a clinic in the Central Business District (CBD) is going to have higher prices than a family clinic in a suburban area.It’s advisable to find a doctor that’s close to your home and another that’s near your office. You might want to consider finding another one near your children’s school, just in case. To save on healthcare costs, you can secure individual health insurance in Singapore for access to a wide medical network and have inpatient and outpatient expenses covered. Handy tip: Be wary of cheap insurance plansYou get what you pay for when it comes to health insurance so don’t be enticed by health insurance plans with appealingly low premiums. These are usually too good to be true and often result in extra costs such as rejected claims. The most common risks associated with cheap health insurance plans include:A small network of healthcare providersUnpredictable premium increasesLow limitsLimited options for pre-existing condition coverage, or none at allMany exclusionsNo outpatient benefitsPoor customer serviceNeed some help?Whether you’re looking for individual health insurance or family health insurance in Singapore, consider seeking the expert advice of a reputable insurance broker such as Pacific Prime. Their team of experts are happy to answer insurance-related questions and help you customise the ideal insurance plan for your needs and budget. Contact Pacific Prime Singapore for advice or an obligation-free quotation.You can also check out Pacific Prime’s State of Health Insurance Report for a deeper understanding of key insurance trends.Written in collaboration with:Pacific Prime Singapore18 Cross Street, China Square Central, #14-056346 3781 | pacificprime.sgRead on for more about insurance and other health and fitness topics in Singapore:Top six health issues in SingaporeLocal vs international health insurance

Best hospitals for kids – and mums

1st July 2020 by Lindsay Yap 3 Min ReadA great benefit of living in Singapore is having access to top-quality medical care. There are many good public and private hospitals available for different healthcare needs, from family medicine and gynaecology to geriatrics and oncology. If you’re planning to start a family or already have kids, it’s handy to know which are the best children’s hospitals in Singapore. Read on to find out where to go for paediatric care and women’s health.Concord International HospitalThe private hospital has three renowned services: comprehensive cancer treatment, minimally invasive surgery and women’s health. They have a Women’s Centre which offers ladies access to all treatments in one place. There is a dedicated team of specialists, including oncology, breast surgery, aesthetic and plastic surgery and gynaecological surgery. They aim to provide patients with personalised service for greater comfort and quality of care.19 Adam Road KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH)Dedicated to women’s and children’s health, this facility is one of the most popular children’s hospitals in Singapore. KKH’s offerings include a breast centre, an endometriosis centre, a gynaecological cancer centre, and a plastic reconstructive and aesthetic surgery centre. Patients will be accompanied in every step, from diagnosis to treatment. Emotional and psychological care are also provided when needed. Check out the hospital’s complete list of services now.100 Bukit Timah RoadMount Elizabeth Novena HospitalMount Elizabeth offers healthcare in a modern facility, with a comforting and stress-relieving environment. In addition to services for women and children, the hospital offers adapted rehabilitation therapy services, ranging from occupational therapy and physiotherapy to speech therapy and immunology.38 Irrawaddy RoadRaffles HospitalRaffles Hospital provides a 24-hour service for emergencies as well as family medicine and multidisciplinary specialist clinics. Its niche lies in strengthening western medicine with the benefits of eastern medicine to deliver the best possible care to patients. They have a specialised centre providing health services for children and infants as well as a fertility and women’s centre.585 North Bridge Road Singapore General Hospital (SGH)SGH sees patients referred by family physicians as well as specialists in both public and private practice. It is more budget-friendly as it is a government-run facility. They offer a comprehensive range of medical specialties and services, including breast surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology and family medicine. To make stays more comfortable, they have bedside iPads for patients to access their individual medical information such as schedules, diagnoses, vital signs and test results. They can also ask questions and put in requests for water, pillows or housekeeping services. Outram RoadThomson Medical CentreThe family-friendly medical facility offers a variety of services, ranging from fertility and maternity to children’s health and Chinese traditional medicine. They also have a dedicated breast centre and a 24-hour family clinic for outpatient consultations.339 Thomson RoadWhere are they located? Want to know more?To find out more about the healthcare facilities in Singapore, check out UEX’s comprehensive list of private and public hospitals.Are you covered by health insurance?To understand how health insurance plans can cover your healthcare costs, approach the friendly UEX team for information and guidance. With UEX, you can obtain a quote for both AXA and APRIL health insurance contracts, customised to your needs and requirements.Written in collaboration with:UEX Global3158 3677 | [email protected] | uexglobal.comRead more in our Health and Fitness section.What vaccinations do my kids need?Is it time to renew your health insurance?

How to donate bone marrow: Saving a stranger

An English expat living in Singapore, ZOË HAWKINS was surprised last year by a call from the Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) – Singapore’s only register of volunteer marrow donors – asking her to donate bone marrow.It had been more than six years since she’d put her name on the registry at a sign-up drive organised in a friend’s function room – and it was a distant memory. “My friend’s family friend had leukaemia and obviously you just want to help in any way you can,” says Zoë of adding her name to the list back in 2014. “When you finally get the call, you think, ‘Oh, okay, I never thought I’d actually be called upon!’” It turned out Zoë was a match for a leukaemia patient, somewhere in the world, whose only chance for survival was to have a bone marrow transplant. Found inside the hollow spaces of large or long bones, bone marrow contains stem cells that produce red and white blood cells, and platelets. Patients with various blood disorders, including leukaemia – a cancer causing rapid production of abnormal white blood cells in the bone marrow – are unable to produce healthy blood cells or the right combination of such cells. Therefore, a bone marrow transplant (also known as a stem cell transplant), which is often a last chance of survival, is done to infuse healthy blood-forming stem cells into the patient’s body to replace damaged or diseased marrow.Oftentimes, siblings can be matches. But, according to the BMDP, less than one in three patients can find this sibling match. That’s why an international database is used so that organisations can cross-reference donors; it’s key to identifying necessary matches.Because the chances of being a match to someone you’re not related to vary widely depending on the rarity of the patient’s tissue type, Zoë knew she had to seriously consider the opportunity to save someone’s life.How to donate bone marrowThere are two methods for bone marrow donation, and donors can opt for their preferred method (with no expenses paid by the donor).One is a Bone Marrow Collection, where bone marrow is removed from the back of the pelvic bone using a special needle. Though there is no surgery involved, the procedure is done under general anaesthetic and the donor must stay overnight in the hospital.Keen to avoid the downtime that can come with recovery from general anaesthetic, Zoë opted for the other method: Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection. This is an outpatient procedure in which stem cells are collected from a donor’s bloodstream; blood is drawn from one arm and passed through a machine that separates the blood stem cells. The remaining blood is then returned through the other arm. According to the BMDP, 90 percent of donors choose this donation process. Though there is no downtime and normally no hospital stay involved, the donor must prep his or her body for four days leading up to and on the day of stem cell collection with daily injections to stimulate the production of blood stem cells.Admittedly, Zoë didn’t feel her best during the few days leading up to the stem cell collection. The daily injections (administered by her GP, as she didn’t want to inject herself) made her feel as though she had a bit of a flu. Still, it was nothing bad enough to stop her from doing her daily activities (“I just had a few more naps!”).“The rougher you feel, the better. It’s a sign your body is doing what it’s supposed to,” she says. “Also, you ache in your hips because that’s where the bone marrow is primarily.”On the day of the stem cell collection, Zoë was linked to a machine while lying in bed. With a line in and line out, blood was taken out of one arm and put in a machine that filters out the blood stem cells. Throughout the day, the bags filled up, and the remaining blood was sent back into her other arm (“It’s like a very long blood test!”).“It was incredible to see what the body can do – and what the machine can do,” says Zoë. For her, it took seven hours to get the right amount of white blood cells and plasma needed for the recipient.“I was linked up at about 8am and done by around 4pm. Everything was sent to the lab at 4.30pm, and by 6.30pm we knew there was enough. I was at home on my sofa by 8.30pm!”Though she was a bit sore and tired in the days following the procedure, Zoë says she could still do everything she needed to do. “In the end, it was just 12 hours in the oncology ward. It was really nice to do something meaningful and it was really nice to do something to help people,” she says. “I was on such a high – I was the lucky one because I was a match.”She adds, “It’s really humbling spending a day in an oncology ward. It puts things in perspective, especially living here in Singapore where we tend to be so spoiled and take things for granted.” How you can help donate bone marrow“It’s important to hear from someone who’s done it,” says Zoë; “to hear them say, ‘Yeah, it’s uncomfortable, but it’s not unbearable; it’s a bit scary, but not too scary.’ She would do it again in a heartbeat to save a life, too.While it may seem like a bizarre concept to some – after all, it is volunteering to help a stranger despite the discomfort and inconvenience – this act of kindness can be the difference between life and death for a patient, and a beacon of hope for the patient’s family.In Singapore, anyone in good health between the ages of 17 and 49 can sign up as a marrow donor. To register, you can apply online at bmdp.org/be-adonor. Normally, a kit will be sent to your home and all you need to do is a simple cheek swab and mail it back. However, due to the COVID-19 situation, the BMDP team will not be dispatching swab kits until the situation improves. Nevertheless, it’s still a great idea to put in a request, and the team will be in touch.In the event that you’re identified as a match, a BMDP coordinator will get in touch to answer any questions; in fact, the coordinator will be with you every step of the way.To find out more, visit bmdp.orgThis article first appeared in the June 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Local vs international health insurance

22nd May 2020 by Lindsay Yap 4 Min ReadThere isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to health insurance – you’ll need to look at your needs, budget and future plans to figure out what works best. When choosing medical insurance for you and your family, the first choice you need to make is whether you want a local or international health insurance plan. But how do you decide? Pacific Prime tells us the differences between them so we can make an informed choice.Health insurance in SingaporeSingaporeans and PRs are automatically signed up for MediShield Life, a basic health insurance plan by the Central Provident Fund (CPF) Board. An Integrated Shield Plan can be added on to it for extended coverage. Foreigners do not have access to public healthcare subsidies so they’ll need to get private cover.#1 Coverage beyond SingaporeIt goes without saying that local health insurance plans are exclusive to Singapore while international health insurance plans offer coverage outside of Singapore. That said, there are some local plans that include cover for medical emergencies while on short overseas trips. But this coverage is usually very limited.Note that there are different types of international plans: there are those offering worldwide coverage, some that exclude the US (though most still include emergency cover) and others that only cover Asia. So read your policy details thoroughly before committing and ensure that you’ve selected adequate coverage. #2 Policy coverageInternational health insurance plans tend to be more comprehensive in their coverage. They come with benefits such as outpatient, specialist, dental and maternity coverage. They also typically include emergency evacuation and repatriation coverage, as well as allowing add-ons for specialist or GP visits. Almost all local health insurance plans do not include international medical evacuation. They may cover outpatient treatments before and after hospital stays, but they don’t cover treatments that aren’t directly related to them.For international plans, you can also go to any hospital or medical facility without worrying that your insurer will reject your claim. Local plans typically have more restrictive networks, with selected hospitals or clinics that will accept your claim in full. As for pre-existing conditions, local plans also offer limited cover (or sometimes none at all).#3 Policy premiumsAnother key difference between local and international health insurance plans in Singapore is the premium you pay. Local plans tend to have cheaper and more affordable premiums compared to international ones. If you have a tight budget and rarely leave the country, a local plan might be sufficient for you. But if you’re constantly on the move, an international plan will work best.#4 Annual limitsIt’s no secret that the cost of healthcare in Singapore is high. Surgery for appendicitis, for example, along with an overnight stay in a private medical centre, will cost at least $10,000. Treatment for this particular condition in a public hospital is lower, at about $5,000. However, medical costs can quickly add up, so it’s important to think about how much your insurance plan can cover in a policy year.Local insurance plans usually have an annual limit between $600,000 to $1.2 million. In comparison, international insurance plans often have a higher limit of $1 million and above.#5 PortabilityLocal policies need to be terminated once you’re no longer living in Singapore. But you can take an international health insurance plan with you if you need to leave Singapore to go back home or to another expat posting. You can also avoid waiting periods and underwriting for add-ons as well as the issue of pre-existing conditions (these will be taken into account if you sign up for a new policy in your new country). #6 Making claimsInternational health insurance plans are also a popular choice as the insurer will typically settle the bill directly with your healthcare provider. Some plans even offer a cashless option for outpatient treatments.Choosing a planBoth local and international health insurance plans come with their own unique benefits. What is more suitable will depend on your needs and how much you’re willing to pay. There is also the option of choosing different coverages for different members of the family. Insurance policies differ across insurance providers so it’s advisable to consult an insurance broker before making your choice. Pacific Prime is an international health insurance broker that specialises in helping you find the most suitable health insurance for you and your family, including individual health insurance and senior citizen health insurance. Contact the team for advice or visit their website to get a free quote.Written in collaboration withPacific Prime Singapore18 Cross Street, China Square Central, #14-056346 3781 | pacificprime.sgRead on for more about insurance and other health and fitness topics in Singapore:Top six health issues in Singapore5 tips to stay healthy

Coping Tips: Teens at home during COVID-19

With school closures, cancelled proms and now stricter stay-at-home measures, many teenagers are feeling disappointed and anxious. From talking to your teens about the current health crisis to ensuring their safety and mental well-being, here are some top tips for helping them cope at home during the COVID-19 crisis.Although the physical risk of COVID-19 is less extreme for teenagers, their mental wellbeing may be affected, explains DR GINA DAHEL, a paediatric doctor at IMC Children’s.“Teenagers tend to value peer group interaction highly, and the the teen years are a key stage in emotional and social development. Now, interactions with friends have been curtailed and they find themselves back in the family home, just as they were stretching their wings,” she says.“Meanwhile, parents are finding their homes occupied by teenagers who would normally be at school, playing sport or seeing friends. This creates an unsettling shift in the normal family dynamic.”This, of course, can pose a lot of challenges, says Dr Dahel. She suggests the following tips to help your teen cope with the change in circumstance,Be positive role modelsTeenagers will be watching their parents to gauge how to react to the current health crisis. In this challenging time, they will be looking to their role models for cues. It’s difficult to strike the right balance – if parents are lax and blasé, teens will fail to grasp the seriousness of this situation. Similarly, if parents are over-anxious, it will heighten their anxiety, explains Dr Dahel.“Talk to your teenagers to see how they are coping and answer their questions honestly. Explain to them that we don’t know how things will evolve but measures are being taken to keep us all safe. No one knows what the future holds and we cannot control macro events. However, we can control our reaction to these events and our own environment. It’s best to focus on what we can control.”Educate your teen on factual vs fictional newsIt’s a good idea to use this as an opportunity to discuss the difference between fake and real news. Guide your teen towards evidence-based, trusted resources – for example, the Ministry of Health (MOH).“Explain to them that not everything they see on social media is true and that the best way to keep informed is by looking at credited resources as a counter balance to unreliable content,” says Dr Dahel.Also, she suggests discussing the use of memes and gifs.“As adults we know that humour can help us manage our emotions in times of uncertainty and stress. However, to teenagers, they can be confusing by sending mixed messages. We can all enjoy the fun content (and may need it at times) but its role is as a counterbalance to the seriousness of the situation.” Social interactionsWith strict measures in place, it’s especially trying for adolescents who actively crave peer group interactions.Luckily, there are many apps that enable virtual communications (including Houseparty, Facetime and Skype). These apps tend to work better than texting, as they require face-to-face verbal communication. “Suggest your teen video call his or her friends, and ask about how each other is going,” says Dr Dahel. “This will help address feelings of isolation and anxiety,”An opportunity for family timeAlthough this situation has been imposed on us all, try to shift your perception to view this as an opportunity to reconnect, talk and develop deeper connections with your teen. This may be challenging – adolescents don’t always want to open up – but the situation gives parents more chances to find that moment when connection is possible.  It is entirely normal that your teen may thwart parental attempts to connect (they are a teenager, after all!) but most importantly they will take note that their parents care.  This expression of care and love provides the key message of ‘safety’ at this unsettling time.We may never have this much time to spend with our loved ones, and, as life goes back to normal, our busy lives will no doubt once again take over. Grab this opportunity.Physical exerciseGetting daily physical exercise is very important for our ongoing mental health. It helps with anxiety, decreases stress, increases self-esteem, releases endorphins (which create feelings of happiness) and enables better sleep. All of these benefits are important at the best of times, but certainly in the midst of the current COVID-19 situation.According to Dr Dahel, it’s important that your teen gets at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, whether it’s walking, swimming, biking or skateboarding. “Teenagers who aren’t inclined to exercise can be hard to galvanize,” she says. “Explaining how exercise can help their physical and mental well-being will help.”Find what type of physical activity appeals to your child. Perhaps ‘going for a walk’ will always be met negatively but, ‘let’s go shoot some hoops’ or ‘let’s do an online workout as a family’ will be more positively received. Either way, it’s important to ensure that your teen goes outside at least once a day.Look for signs of anxietyIn all, it’s crucial to stay aware of teen stress and look out for any signs of anxiety, says Dr Dahel. And do seek medical assistance if you are concerned.For more information, visit imc-healthcare.com.Like this? See our Health & Fitness sectionShould kids go on play dates right now?Try this full-body calorie blitz

COVID-19: How to manage anxiety

15th March 2020 by Expat Living 4 Min ReadAs the COVID-19 crisis continues, it’s all too easy to get swept along by the world’s collective anxiety. Here, Claire Holmes explores how being ‘purposely present’ at this time can be helpful. We can’t control the news or other people’s reactions; we only have control over ourselves and how we respond, she says.Where is your mind?Most of us have probably noticed ourselves more future orientated than usual, getting caught up in the ‘what ifs’, weaving a story about what might happen and perhaps feeling more anxious over the last few weeks. This is normal with what’s happening in the world around us. And, of course, future planning and thinking about precautions is useful; but it’s the rumination in times of uncertainty that is troublesome for us.Being ‘purposely present’ means intentionally bringing yourself back to this moment rather than getting caught up in unhelpful thinking patterns. When worry about the future, we operate from the part of our nervous system that causes a state of hyper-arousal. It’s from this place that we tend to react rather than respond; things feel more overwhelming and out of our control. When we are more present focused, we slow things down for ourselves, moving into the part of our nervous system that helps us relax and make much better choices.Taking noticeAwareness is key. When you notice that you’re caught up in worrying or catastrophising, your body will often give you signs that help you recognise this. Your heart may beat a little faster, you may feel breathless, sweaty, fidgety or have ‘butterflies in the tummy’. This is your anxiety signature; it’s different for everyone and it’s helpful to get to know yours so that you can make a choice to be ‘here.’Purposely present techniquesYou might like to tune into your breath from time to time or drop into your body by breathing into places of tension and inviting these areas to relax. Tuning into ‘the soundscape’ – being aware of the sounds around you – is another way of being present. Be aware that when you practice these things your mind will wander, as all minds do; the skill is to notice where it went and gently bring your focus back to where you want to place your attention, over and over. You might like to try this for a short period of time during the day. Sometimes setting a timer can help you to mind the time.It might be helpful to bring yourself back to the present by simply noticing your feet in contact with the ground. Naming the emotions that are here in any given moment helps us to not get wrapped up in its story and stay present too. Acknowledging what you are thankful for, connecting fully with others, offering random acts of kindness are other things that you can try to connect with the present. Engaging your senses also helps you to be in the moment as it helps you to focus on your interaction with your environment – savouring your food, even just for one mouthful, is a good way to do this. Adopting a ‘one-pointed focus’ on anything that you are doing in the now helps you move from indulging the ‘what ifs’ to connecting with the ‘what is’, helping you to feel more in control.Take a Breathing SpaceAs a meditation teacher, I share with my class, a ‘mini meditation’ called a Breathing Space. This technique helps us to press reset; it’s like taking an internal selfie to ‘check in’ with ourselves. It combines some of the ideas above into one exercise. Punctuating your day with this strategy can be an interesting experiment. To do this, make a choice to pause, take a breath, connect with an attitude of acceptance and non-judgement, and then:notice where you feel the breath most obviously and let your attention settle there – notice the inbreath and the outbreath, too;drop your attention into the body, and notice any body sensations;turn your awareness to your thoughts – what are you telling yourself right now? Registering don’t react;name the emotions that are here;tune into the senses: what do you notice in your visual field? What is here to be physically felt right now (touch of your clothes on your skin, feet in contact with the floor, and so on), what can you hear, smell and taste?make a choice to carry on with your dayFitness for the mindAll this is a bit like taking your mind to the gym. As with physical fitness, you’ll need to practice. At first, try your ‘purposely present’ strategies when you are not feeling overwhelmed. You’ll literally begin to re-train your mind and carve out new neural networks in your brain, and the more that you do this the stronger these skills become. This makes the possibility of creating a pause, to respond rather than to react, more available to you in times of overwhelm.Meditating regularly helps to cement these neurological adaptations. There are many apps to help with establishing this: Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm to name a few.A gift?Perhaps choosing to be present on purpose is indeed a ‘present’ or a kind gift to ourselves in these difficult times. Cultivating being ‘purposely present’ may become a life-skill that helps you to find more stability and spaciousness in your day-to-day life, even after this period of uncertainty has passed. If you’re up for it, experiment with the strategies shared here that feel useful and fit with you, choosing to bring yourself into the present whenever you need to, and explore your experience with curiosity.You might even like to try a Breathing Space right now before you continue with your day.Claire Holmes is Head of School Counselling at Tanglin Trust School Singapore.

Does my insurance cover COVID-19?

10th March 2020 by Lindsay Yap 3 Min ReadWith COVID-19 spreading at a fast rate across the world, access to international healthcare is more important than ever. The Singapore government has put in place many measures to contain the spread of the virus, including border restrictions, contact tracing and quarantine policies. But with the infectiousness of the virus and the lack of a vaccine, you’re probably wondering what happens if you come down with the virus here or overseas. Would health insurance cover it? We find out more from the team at Pacific Prime Singapore.What happens when someone gets infected with COVID-19 in Singapore?Individuals who have COVID-19-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, runny nose and sore throat, can head to one of the designated Public Health Preparedness Clinics to be assessed. (Find out where these clinics are located, here.) If they’re suspected of having pneumonia, they’ll be sent to a public hospital for tests and follow-up care. If they’re confirmed to have the infection, they’ll be isolated and given treatment. The government will cover the treatment costs of all suspected and infected patients at public hospitals, excluding outpatient expenses (such as visits to GPs, polyclinics and private medical centres). Does health insurance cover COVID-19?As the coronavirus is a new and unexpected disease, most insurers will treat it as a special condition that is not subjected to general exclusions (many policies exclude epidemics).Insurers are likely to cover the following costs, up to each policy’s prescribed limits:Costs for diagnostic tests when requested by a medical professionalCosts for hospital treatment, including admission into isolation wards as a result of COVID-19Cost of eligible outpatient treatment for the disease and its symptoms, as required by a medical professionalIf you have international health insurance, you are also covered overseas. But, if you have a local health insurance plan, you likely won’t be covered overseas or you’ll only receive limited cover for a short period of time (depending on the terms and conditions of your plan). What if you’re diagnosed with the virus while overseas? You’ll likely have to seek treatment in that particular country as you won’t be fit to fly. Therefore, having international health insurance would be ideal.Additional insurance coverageSome insurers are also offering extended coverage, such as covering all medical complications resulting from COVID-19 and medical evacuation if the necessary help isn’t available locally. Other supportive measures that some insurance providers are offering include:Waived cost for ward upgrade during COVID-19 hospitalisationSimplified and express claims proceduresVirtual consultationsDepending on the insurer and your policy, there might be different terms and conditions attached to outpatient treatments and COVID-19. If you’re unsure, check with your insurance provider or a broker like Pacific Prime Singapore. How about travel plans?Before you cancel your trips, talk to your insurer. Whether travel insurance covers the COVID-19 depends on your policy and when you booked your tickets.For example, if you booked your trip before COVID-19 became a known issue, you could still be covered under the “cancel for any reason” benefit in your policy. However, if you booked your trip after it became known, you probably won’t be covered. Just like with natural disasters, such as hurricanes or floods, the coverage depends on when you purchased it.Need more help?Besides checking your policy’s terms and conditions, you can also talk to an expert such as advisors from Pacific Prime Singapore. The insurance brokerage specialises in putting together health insurance plans for individuals, families and groups.Written in collaboration withPacific Prime Singapore18 Cross Street, China Square Central, #14-056346 3781 | pacificprime.sgRead on for more about insurance and other health and fitness topics in Singapore:Top six health issues in SingaporeDengue Fever in Singapore: All you need to know

Is sex addiction a real thing?

Yep, and it’s a problem that can affect the whole family. Here’s how to recognise the signs of compulsive sexual behaviour disorder (CSBD), and how it can impact expat life. While some people are quick to write off sex addiction as an attempt to make excuses for irresponsible behaviour, it’s important to understand that, like other types of addiction – including substance abuse and gambling disorders – sex addiction is a mental disorder recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). And, each type of disorder has its own set of defined characteristics. According to WHO, CSBD is characterised by a persistent pattern of failure to control intense, repetitive sexual impulses or urges resulting in repetitive sexual behaviour. Symptoms may include:repetitive sexual activities becoming a central focus of the person’s life to the point of neglecting health and personal care or other interests, activities and responsibilities;numerous unsuccessful efforts to significantly reduce recurring sexual behaviour;continued repetitive sexual behaviour despite adverse consequences or deriving little or no satisfaction from it; and,a pattern of failure to control intense, sexual impulses or urges, and resulting repetitive sexual behaviour, manifested over an extended period of time (six months or more), and which causes marked distress or significant impairment in personal, family, social, educational, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.There are a number of behavioural criteria that set CSBD apart from other sexual behaviour that isn’t considered problematic, explains addictions specialist and psychiatrist DR MUNIDASA WINSLOW. It’s the combination of these criteria that enable practitioners to determine whether a person could benefit from treatment.Distress that is entirely related to moral judgments and disapproval about sexual impulses, urges or behaviours is not sufficient to meet this requirement. For instance, a woman who uses Tinder three times a week to find dates that lead to sexual intimacy, despite her friends’ and family’s disapproval, doesn’t meet the criteria for CSBD.An example of someone meeting the criteria would be a married man who uses sex workers in Singapore and when travelling around Asia; he has run up several thousands of dollars paying for sex workers and has been cautioned twice by his boss and HR about his behaviour after work and on business trips; he denies his behaviour to his wife and has convinced her that she is paranoid, judgmental and highly strung. Expat life and addictionDr Winslow is the founder of Promises Healthcare, which provides holistic mental health and addiction treatment and recovery services to adults, adolescents and children suffering from all types of disorders. He was the first to bring psychiatric and psychological treatment for sex addiction to Singapore in 2001.The clinic’s team of multidisciplinary specialists – including psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists, all with different expertise and specialisations – treat both local and expat patients on a daily basis. Interestingly (but, perhaps not surprisingly), expats tend to be vulnerable to addiction in a different way than those who have lived here their whole lives.A lot of expat families who come to Asia suddenly face a whole different series of stresses and challenges, explains Dr Winslow. They are placed outside the social mores, social networks, family structures and other community support structures that they were brought up with “back home”. Additional vulnerabilities include stress from moving to a new country, living in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar food, climate, cultures and medical and other services, new and challenging work commitments, stressful travel, loneliness, anxiety and depression.And expat professionals aren’t the only ones who must adjust. Often, the “trailing spouse” has to give up their job to move abroad and cannot work in Singapore. “This can lead to a paucity of validation, attention, satisfaction, selfefficacy and adult interactions,” says ANDREW DA ROZA, an addictions psychotherapist at Promises who specialises in sex addiction and substance abuse. “Loneliness, boredom and identity crisis can follow.”Turning to vices like alcohol, drugs or sex to distract from and cope with these feelings is common – and often this can turn into an addiction.Other aspects of the expat lifestyle only compound this habit-forming behaviour. Many expats who move to Singapore have access to higher disposable incomes and round-the-clock childcare, and feel the pressure to attend work drinks multiple nights a week. This excess drinking becomes normalised (what happens in the “bubble” stays in the bubble, right?) and becomes socially acceptable. Sex often accompanies a night of partying and heavy drinking, too.“Sex work is prevalent in Southeast Asia, and the socioeconomic circumstances of young women in Asia make them vulnerable to the large and powerful sex industry. Some hotels, bars, clubs and restaurants may also be part of this industry,” says Andrew. “Travel and business events also give expats more exposure to the sex industry than they’d have had in their home country.” An addict in denialUnsurprisingly, many addicts aren’t open to seeking help from a professional, at least initially. That’s why the partners of people with sexual compulsivity are often the ones who come to the clinic in great distress.“They may have just learned about the latest infidelity, daily internet porn use, visits to Orchard Towers, massage parlours or KTV lounges. The images accidentally left on the family computer may be shocking or alarming,” says Andrew. “Perhaps they have discovered condoms in the person’s luggage after a business trip, unexplained expenses on their credit cards, and unexplained absences from their hotel rooms late at night when they tried to call. Children’s birthdays, graduations and family celebrations may be mysteriously abandoned for ‘essential’ business trips, and partners may notice strange messages or nude photos on the mobiles, or perhaps odd phone calls at night that seem to make the person excited or embarrassed.”When confronted, the person with CSBD will likely deny or rationalise his or her actions, make excuses, blame others, create distractions or “gaslight” their partner.“Someone with an addiction will do their very best to hide their behaviour. In sex addiction, they’ll deny it completely and instead turn it around to make it seem as though the spouse is paranoid or crazy. The person without the addiction becomes convinced that it’s them.”This article first appeared in the February 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase a copy or subscribe so you never miss an issue!

Hospitalisation: causes and costs

29th January 2020 by Lindsay Yap 3 Min ReadSingapore is one of the world’s safest and cleanest cities, and it has some of the best hospitals too. Of course, that doesn’t mean any of us want to actually go to them! Unfortunately, we can’t avoid hospitalisation for certain medical issues. We list six of them here, and we also consider some facts and figures around insurance – so important in a place where staying and getting treated in a hospital can be very costly.#1 PneumoniaFor years, pneumonia has been one of the top reasons for hospitalisation in Singapore. According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), it accounted for more than 3% of hospitalisation cases in 2018. Virus outbreaks beyond Singapore also place us at risk as the country welcomes many tourists all year round. A good example is the pneumonia-like Wuhan coronavirus. During pandemics like these, it’s important to be socially responsible and look out for symptoms, especially when you’ve been travelling.#2 Acute upper respiratory infectionsAcute upper respiratory infections are infections that occur in the trachea (windpipe), throat, pharynx, larynx, sinuses and nose. While these are often not as serious as pneumonia – they include illnesses like common cold and sinusitis – in some cases an infection can worsen, leading to a hospital visit.  If you’re living in Southeast Asia for the first time, your immune system may be more susceptible to these infections. Your body can take time to adapt to the pathogen strains in this part of the world. If you come down with an infection, drink a lot of water, get enough rest and visit a doctor if necessary. #3 DiabetesDiabetes is a common health condition in Singapore, with the country having the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations (The Straits Times). According to the MOH, a study in 2018 showed that every additional 250 millilitres serving of sugar-sweetened beverages daily increases individuals’ risk of diabetes by as much as 26 per cent (Asian population). This increased risk has also been seen in the US and Europe (Journal of Diabetes Investigation). To curb diabetes cases, the Singapore Government has announced plans to ban ads for sugary drinks in Singapore.#4 Intestinal infectious diseasesSingapore is known to be clean, but there are some food places that are cleaner than others. Your stomach may also not be used to the bacteria here when you first arrive. Unclean food isn’t the only cause of intestinal infectious diseases though; they can also be transmitted by consuming contaminated drinks, using contaminated cutlery, touching contaminated surfaces or even having contact with an infected person. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and stomach pain.#5 Skin infectionsConditions like eczema are common in Singapore. In 2017 alone, there were over 18,000 new cases. The hot and humid weather in Singapore can cause excessive perspiration, making the skin more susceptible. Eczema can affect quality of life, and in certain cases there can be complications, severe flare-ups and even fatal consequences.#6 Road accidentsSingapore’s road safety record may not be as good as we think. In 2018, there were 7,690 road accidents that resulted in injuries (Singapore Police Force). The key causes were:Speeding (719 cases)Drink driving (176 cases)Running red lights (120 cases) Paying your hospital billsAs an expat, you don’t have access to subsidised medical care in public hospitals. You’ll likely need to go to a private medical centre – and they are expensive. Prices vary amongst hospitals, with most stays starting above $500 per night. For example, daily room rates (single bed) at Mount Alvernia are around $570, while Mount Elizabeth and Gleneagles Hospital charge $728 and $708 respectively. Surgery costs extra, too. For instance, in-patient treatment and surgery for an upper limb fracture in a private hospital starts from $6,500 (MOH).To ensure that you won’t need to pay out of your own pocket, get covered by health insurance. You may also want to consider getting a family health plan for expats. And, if you are a frequent traveller, check if your plan covers you when you’re overseas.To find out more about health insurance in Singapore, contact the team at Pacific Prime Singapore for more advice or visit their website for a free quote.Written in collaboration with:Pacific Prime Singapore18 Cross Street, China Square Central, #14-056346 3781 | pacificprime.sgRead on for more about insurance and other health and fitness topics in Singapore:What life and health insurance do I need?Dengue fever in Singapore: All you need to know

STDs in Singapore: Why you should get tested

No one really talks about them, but sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are more common than you think. In fact, some have increased quite significantly over the last decade. Here are the five most common STDs in Singapore and why it’s worth getting tested for infection, even if there are no symptoms.Common STDs in SingaporeAlso known as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), an STD refers to any infection that is passed from one person to another through sexual intercourse, including oral sex, says DR JULIAN NG of DTAP Clinic (Dr Tan and Partners).On average, there were about 8,000 to 9,000 cases of STDs in Singapore in 2018. Based on the Department of Sexually Transmitted Infections Control (Singapore) in 2018, the most commonly seen STDs in Singapore are as follows:#1 ChlamydiaChlamydia is very often asymptomatic. However, some patients may notice clear discharge from their genitalia, itchiness or a burning sensation when passing urine. In cases of anal infection with chlamydia, someone may have the sensation of needing to pass motion shortly after they have already done so, or painful bowel movements, says Dr Ng. # 2 GonorrhoeaCommon symptoms of gonorrhoea include yellow or green discharge or pain when passing urine. In cases where the infection is in the throat, the patient may experience a sore throat or notice a white substance in his or her throat, explains Dr Ng. In cases of anal infection, the patient may notice discharge, pain when passing motion or the sensation of needing to pass motion shortly after they have already done so.#3 SyphilisSyphilis, which is an STD is caused by a bacterial infection, is unfortunately making a comeback globally, says Dr Ng. In fact, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported that syphilis cases have gone up by 70 percent from 2010 to 2017.Symptoms of syphilis vary depending on the stage of the condition. The infection usually first presents with a single, often painless, ulcer that can be easily missed. However, if it’s not diagnosed and treated, the infection will move on to the secondary stage, even if the ulcer has healed. Skin rashes can develop on any part of the body, but most often appears on the palms and soles of the feet. The third stage, which can occur years after the infection was first acquired, can affect the brain and other vital organs. Luckily, Dr Ng says it’s rare these days for the condition to progress to the third stage.Additionally, he says it’s important for women who are planning to get pregnant or are pregnant to get screened for syphilis, as it can be passed to an unborn foetus and can result in devastating consequences for the newborn.#4 Genital wartsThis STD is caused by certain types of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) and is highly contagious through skin-to-skin contact or sexual contact. Genital warts commonly present as small cauliflower-like bumps that can develop into one single lump or into a cluster of bumps.There are HPV vaccinations  available to protect you from certain strains of HPV. It’s definitely something worth speaking to your doctor about! #5 Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)Herpes is a commonly used term to describe an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). In cases of herpes infection, the patient may notice multiple blisters either around the genital area or the mouth or lips. These blisters are usually painful. Additionally, some patients may notice a tingling sensation prior to noticing the blisters. The blisters may also occur in other parts of the body such as the buttocks.Currently, there is no medication available to cure herpes once you have been infected. However, there are effective treatments that can help reduce the symptoms, says Dr Ng.what it means is that in some cases, the individual’s immune system may be able to suppress the virus very effectively that they may not have any more recurrences for the rest of their lives. In some cases, an individual’s immune system may be able to suppress the virus very effectively, getting rid of the virus permanently.When to see a doctorIf you have any worrying symptoms, see a doctor immediately to get tested, advises Dr Ng. Many STDs can be cured with the correct antibiotics. Others can be managed with medication.Since many people do not experience symptoms, they can easily transmit the infection to their partners unknowingly. Chlamydia, for example, is often asymptomatic, which means getting tested is the only way of knowing you’re infected.Therefore, knowing your STD status is very important. It allows you to take steps to protect your partner while the infection is being treated, reduces the risk of transmission to others and also helps reduce your own risk of any health complications such as infertility or an infection of the testes, for example.Dr Ng says it’s important for anyone who is sexually active to consider getting screened once every six months or once a year. Of course, if someone has multiple sexual partners or has unprotected sex with a person of unknown STD status, then he or she may want to consider doing STD screenings more often – perhaps every three to six months or so. STD testing optionsSTD blood tests, urine tests and/or swab tests can be done to check for infection. Depending on one’s sexual activities, STD swab tests will be performed on the penis, vagina, rectal area, throat or another infected areas.And, you don’t have to wait long for the results, thankfully. DTAP Clinic offers rapid STD testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and herpes, with next day results.We know you’re wondering about whether you can be tested anonymously. While anonymous testing is possible for HIV, it’s not available for other STDs. However, don’t let that stop you from getting tested, says Dr Ng. “Rest assured,  all medical records are private and confidential. In terms of notifying the Ministry of Health for STDs, final statistics are anonymised and no patient details are published.”If you’re concerned about STDs, speak to your healthcare professional to seek further advice, says Dr Ng.Diagnosis and treatment for STD is available at all seven of DTAP Clinic’s locations in Singapore. To find out more, or to to schedule an appointment, email [email protected] or visit dtapclinic.com/std.Like this? Read more in our Health & Fitness section.Living with breast cancer30 ways to be healthier and fitter