Maid Insurance in Singapore
Since the 1st of Feb, I have been without a helper. The first couple of weeks went by quite well as I came up with a family schedule and was up to date with laundry and cooking and everything in between. However, as the weeks went by, I found myself struggling to manage work alongside running the household as effectively as I had hoped. Needless to say, I developed a newfound respect for stay-home mothers as well as helpers who help us, working moms, look after our homes whilst we work.
My new helper will hopefully be able to join my household by the end of this month and boy am I anxiously counting down the days to her arrival. It also makes me realise just how dependent we are on our helpers and how essential a good helper is for us to have peace of mind whilst working. These helpers leave their homes and families to ensure that our homes and families can continue to run. Before we are able to employ them, however, certain pre-requisites have to be met. This includes the purchase of medical and personal accident insurance covers for them.
Minimally, the coverage should include $15,000 per year for medical insurance and at least $60,000 per year for personal accident insurance.
With my previous helper, I had taken the highest plan with my insurer and this provided $30,000 in medical coverage as well as $60,000 for personal accident coverage. I thought that this would be sufficient as in the event the helper does get hospitalized, there is always the option to send them back home to get treatment.
Now, most insurances for foreign domestic workers (FDW) cover the following main areas:
Hospitalization and Surgical Expenses
Personal Accident Coverage (including outpatient medical expenses)
*Plus, other coverage areas such as Liability to Third Party, Security Bond to MOM, Helper’s personal belongings and so on.
With my previous helper, I did incur quite a bit of outpatient expenses with trips to the dentist amounting to close to $500 as well as trips to the GP amounting to $500 as well. And all this just within 1 year! Especially given COVID, I had taken extra precaution and sent my helper at the onset of any symptoms. Neither of these could be claimed from my insurer as medical expenses covered had to be due to an accident and not an illness. Dental is also not usually covered by FDW insurances. However, under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, as an employer, we are responsible for both the inpatient and outpatient treatment costs. And though it hurt the pocket a little, it was the least I could do for someone who I definitely needed to be healthy so that our daily schedules could carry on.
Recently, I came across this article: 'A day in the ICU is $3,000 to $4,000': Employer faces $165,000 medical bill after new maid falls gravely ill
To summarise, the employer faced a bill of $165,000 after his new helper fell seriously ill. The hospitalization coverage offered in his FDW insurance was $30,000, just a fraction of the actual bill incurred. The employer was expected to make the full payment and has started a donation drive to help foot the bill. Upon researching, I found other similar situations amongst Singaporean employers:
Maid in ICU for a month with suspected brain disease, employers turn to crowdfunding
Maid's toothache turns into $93,000 life-threatening skin condition
This got me thinking. Are our maid insurances providing us with only a false sense of security? We think just purchasing FDW insurance will be sufficient. Some people even end up choosing the minimum amount of $15,000 as sufficient coverage. What is $15,000 if you are faced with a mountain of a hospital bill? How is the $30,000 medical coverage I had for my previous helper going to be sufficient for a debilitating critical illness? Or even in the case above, where the helper was too weak to be flown back to her home country and had to be stabilized before being repatriated back at $45,000! To the average salaryman, this is a huge sum. Couple that with a family with children and elderly to look after alike, the medical expenses incurred in all 3 examples are enough to make one be in debt.
On the MOM website, it says “You are strongly encouraged to buy additional insurance coverage for greater protection against medical bills incurred by your FDW and peace of mind.”
MOM will not use taxpayers’ monies to fund these workers when they get seriously ill. The onus is on the employer. Singapore has a world-class healthcare system that is a dream for many other countries. However, it is also not the cheapest healthcare system whereby medical inflation continues to increase at a rate of 10 to 15% annually. Foreigners in Singapore receive no subsidies from the government for their hospitalization. This means that the average bill size faced by FDW, should it be a life-threatening illness, will potentially be huge. And now, with COVID, even repatriating them back to their home countries will not be as easy as well.
What then can be done to ensure that there is sufficient coverage for our helpers?
1. Hospitalization Coverage Top Up
You can consider purchasing a hospitalization plan for your helper once they start working with you. Since they have a valid pass, they will be able to purchase such plans. However, it should be noted that the policies will have to be in your helper’s own name. You can declare the source of funds to be from you, the employer. Once the policy gets affected, you can also get the helper to sign an absolute assignment of the policy which means that they transfer the ownership of the policy to you. In this manner, you can own the policy with your helper still being the life that is insured. Thus, decisions about the policy such as change of premium frequency, change of coverage or even termination of the policy can be determined by you.
2. Personal Accident Coverage Top Up
You can consider purchasing additional personal accident coverage for your helper as well. This would help serve as a top-up on the $60,000 that is already provided in the FDW insurance that you would be required to purchase. This can be an optional add on.
I know for sure that once my helper arrives at my home in a couple of weeks, I will definitely welcome her with arms wide open especially since I am unbelievably tired. But more importantly, I will be having this conversation with her and ensuring that I can sign up for a hospitalization plan as a top-up. Even though it is going to cost me more per year to insure her, rather than be faced with an unknown bill, I will rather be given a known premium per year!
So as luck would have it, my helper failed her PCR test and has been hospitalized at Alexandra Hospital to undergo more tests and to be under observation. The financial care cost estimate for a 5 day stay at Alexandra Hospital at a C class ward is around $4,000 to $8,000 depending on the severity of the infection. I was just told that she received the results of her blood work that suggests she is probably a past infection patient. But, I will nevertheless still have to make payment for this hospital stay. Thankfully, insurers now include a Covid-19 rider for the Maid Insurance policies. This covers the helper for 14 days after her entry into Singapore (essentially the quarantine period) for hospitalization due to Covid-19. A quick check with my insurer revealed that claims will be done on a reimbursement basis (a common practice for most hospitalization claims). So will need to wait for a discharge summary and a final tax invoice before proceeding to file the claim. Needless to say, the conversation I am to have with her about hospitalisation insurance is essential now more than ever!