Mind your dental expectations
Time to get our teeth prodded and cleaned.
Earlier in the week, H visited two clinics in the area. One was closed despite the prominent business hour notice stating they were open. He stood there awhile wondering if the entire staff was on break before he read the “Dental Assistant wanted” sign. He finally realised they weren’t going to open anytime soon. He left that clinic and went to the second one.
“Are you accepting new patients?” he asked, thinking the process was similar to the US.
According to him, the receptionist gave him a confused look.
“We’re full right now but you can come back tomorrow.”
Unlike in the US, you’re not limited to health practitioners within the insurance network. H and I have our own insurance, paid out of our own pockets, not the company’s. Unlike our insurance in Australia or the US, dental, optical, visits to the doctor for non-emergency cases are not covered by our insurance. Anything that doesn’t require a visit to the hospital requires out-of-pocket payment for us.
AIA, according to our agent, didn’t have a separate Dental Insurance for expats. Other insurance companies who did, i.e. CIGNA or AXA, charge annual premiums from US$4k to US$6K. They’re worldwide coverage excluding the US. Compared to the confusing prices and insurance allowable deductions in the US, we figured we could pay for the other non-emergency items.
In Singapore, companies may provide health insurance to their workers holding Employment Pass or they may not. It’s a matter of negotiation before the employment contract is signed. For everyone else, medical insurance is required.
Here’s what the Ministry of Manpower states in its website.
Providing medical insurance is not a requirement for employing Employment Pass (EPs) holders. Most EP holders may already have their own medical insurance, or may want to choose their own coverage.
For EP holders who do not have existing medical insurance, employers can choose to provide insurance coverage as part of their employment contract, or encourage their EP holders to get their own medical insurance.
The medical insurance requirement applies only to Work Permit and S Pass holders. This is in line with employers’ existing responsibility for the upkeep and maintenance of their foreign workers, including the provision of medical treatment.
Day of our appointment. We presented ourselves to the reception. The clinic housed both a GP (General Practitioner aka Family Doctor) and a Dental Clinic. We filled up a form each. A few minutes later, H’s name was called.
While waiting, I checked out the price list of the clinic’s services.
Notice the price range?
I asked the receptionist and was told the complexity of the case will determine the price. Not sure if that’s the case everywhere.
After 15 minutes, H came out.
My turn. I have a mouth guard and asked if they cleaned them. Yes, to the tune of $300+.
Whoah! I had my two mouth guards cleaned in Boston for free.
“We don’t have the equipment here,” said the dentist. “Only the big labs have them so we need to send them there.”
“What is it you want done today?” she then asked.
“Cleaning and general check up,” I said.
The assistant wordlessly handed me protective goggles.
“Do you need the x-rays of my teeth?”
The dentist shook her head.
“Only if there’s a need. How long ago have they been taken?”
“About a year or so ago.”
“They’re already old.”
I opened my mouth. Cleaned, polished, and fluouride-soaked mouth later, I was done. 10 minutes. There were no chitchats, just straight out get the job done and goodbye.
The total bill came to $267 for both of us though the receptionist initially argued it was $399. H had to ask her to double-check the total since the sum didn’t make sense. Calculator later and the receptionist came up with the correct number.
Overall, it was a quick albeit impersonal visit. Not sure if it’s the culture so we’ll have to visit another dentist to compare.