IN YOUR 20s
The rule of thumb is "buy young, save big". Not only will medical insurance premiums increase significantly when you buy a plan later, you'll also be subject to more exclusions (anything that insurance companies will not cover). These can range from congenital diseases to pre-existing medical conditions.
"So even if you're healthy now or have just started working and don't have enough earning power to insure yourself to the fullest, make sure you get the essentials first," says Jenny Teo, head of business centre, NTUC Income.
Take care of hospitalisation costs
"This is the most critical and basic of all medical insurance to buy, especially in Singapore, where hospitalisation fees can be quite costly," says Jenny,
For example, an overnight stay for a gastroscopy - minor surgery to inspect the stomach - ranges from $1,700 for a Class B2 Ward and $3,500 for a Class B1 Ward, to upwards of $10,000 for a four-bedder in a private hospital. (Source: Hospital Bill Sizes, from the Ministry of Health website.)
"Hospitalisation insurance, like NTUC Income's Enhanced Incomeshield Plan, covers your hospitalisation expenses, surgery costs and some outpatient treatments. Once you've been accepted under the policy, you're covered for life. So the earlier your purchase hospitalisation insurance, the better," says Jenny.
Some of us already have hospitalisation insurance bought by our parents when we were young. In this case, review your plans to see if you should purchase any riders - additional benefits to existing policies - to improve or complement them, recommends Jenny.
Protect against death, disability and major illnesses
After you have a hospitalisation policy in place, consider getting a total protection insurance plan that provides coverage for death, permanent disability and major illnesses.
"This will give you peace of mind - if anything should happen to you, your family will be taken care of. And if you suffer from permanent disability or a critical illness and can no longer support yourself, the money will go towards your medical and living expenses," says Jenny.
IN YOUR 30s
Here's where you enter the next phase of life and start taking your health more seriously - by bolstering your medical insurance. If you're married with children, start the ball rolling by insuring your kids early too.
Boost your medical insurance
At this point, it's good to do a financial review to see if you should make adjustments to your coverage. As your finances become more stable, you can afford to add to your medical insurance to cover your bases.
"It is important to boost your critical illness coverage, especially for women-centric diseases, such as breast and uterine cancers. New plans, like NTUC Income's Cancer Protect, will provide protection and some funds for your medical expenses from the early stages of the cancer - the moment you're diagnosed," says Jenny.
Get maternity insurance
One of the most important (and at times, risky) periods in a woman's life is when you're expecting. So as soon as you're pregnant, get a maternity insurance plan to safeguard against pregnancy complications and protect yourself and your baby.
"Some plans, such as NTUC Income's Lady Plus rider (together with a critical illness policy), cover maternity risks for expectant mothers. These include complications such as pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure). The plan also covers the unborn baby against certain congenital diseases," Jenny explains.
IN YOUR 40s
This should be a relatively secure financial period for you since you would have taken care of most of your personal medical insurance needs. Now, you can think about upgrading your plans to get premium coverage and review your parents' policies too.
Care for your parents
"Most of our parents would have looked after their own medical insurance needs. But if they haven't done so or have not updated them, this is a good time to do a review and add riders for them before they reach any age-related exclusions," says Jenny.
NTUC Income's Silvercare insurance plan is designed for seniors aged 50-75. It operates like a personal accident plan, offering protection for acccidental injuries, like falls. It covers medical expenses, home care, rehabilitation and even caregiver training fees.
Upgrade your policies
You're likely to be earning a higher income at this time of your life, so think about topping up your policies in order to get premium care and coverage.
"Enhancing your medical insurance plans can include small amendments like paying a higher premium for access to a better ward class if you should be hospitalised. Or adding riders like a personal accident plan or hospital benefit - which will pay you a fixed amount of compensation for the duration that you're hospitalised and unable to work," says Jenny.
This article was originally published in Simply Her's Every Woman's Cancer Prevention Guide 2014.