Singapore overtook Hong Kong to top a ranking of the most efficient health-care systems, as the Government boosts spending on medical services to support an ageing population.
The South-east Asian nation was rated first among 51 economies, according to an annual ranking compiled by Bloomberg that tracks factors including life expectancy, the cost of health care as a percentage of gross domestic product and total medical expenditure for each person.
Hong Kong dropped to second place and Italy was ranked third, while the US was 44th and Russia last.
"I describe Singapore's system as the least imperfect in the world," said Dr Jeremy Lim, head of Oliver Wyman's Asia-Pacific health and life sciences practice.
"If Singapore can successfully balance the increased funding availability with prudent measures to curb inappropriate and over-consumption which society as a whole accepts and supports, the future would be very promising."
Singapore will spend close to $4 billion over the next five years to help Singaporeans benefit from MediShield Life, a new universal health insurance plan, to be implemented at the end of next year.
It has also set aside $9 billion as part of a Pioneer Generation Package.
Bloomberg's ranking of the most efficient health-care systems took into account year-on- year changes to the criteria used.
Hong Kong's health-care cost per capita increased 38 per cent from a year earlier to US$1,944, (S$2,455) while Singapore's rose 13 per cent to US$2,426, according to the ranking published yesterday.
Singapore's life expectancy gained 0.4 years in the same period to 82.1 years, compared with Hong Kong's 0.06 years rise to 83.5 years.
Singapore's consumer prices rose 1.2 per cent in July from a year earlier, while Hong Kong's inflation quickened to 4 per cent from 3.6 per cent in June.
Hong Kong has higher utilisation rates and public medical expenditure, while Singapore's health-care spending is more targeted, said Dr Phua Kai Hong, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore.
The average length of stay in hospitals in Singapore for patients aged 65 years and above rose to 8.2 days last year from 7.8 days in 2010. More beds are being added, but as the population ages, the bed crunch may get worse, said Professor David Matchar, director of health services and systems research at Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School in Singapore.