Health insurance remains a top priority for people here, new figures from last year show.
More than 50,000 Singapore residents took out new health insurance coverage last year, primarily through Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) and IP riders.
As at Dec 31, a total of 2.89 million people (about one in every two people here) were covered by private health plans and riders, with total premiums of $1.42 billion.
For the 12 months ended Dec 31, new health insurance premiums amounted to $241 million, of which IP premiums and IP riders accounted for about 86 per cent or $208 million. The other $33 million came from other medical plans and riders. The data was disclosed by the Life Insurance Association Singapore (LIA), which held its quarterly briefing yesterday.
Lifted by strong sales in the fourth quarter, Singapore's life insurance industry was another winner, expanding 10 per cent to $3.29 billion for the year ended Dec 31 in terms of what the industry calls total weighted new business premiums.
The robust performance meant the total sum assured in these new life policies soared an even better 15 per cent to $117 billion.
Lifted by strong sales in the fourth quarter, the life insurance industry expanded by this much to $3.29 billion for the year ended Dec 31.
The total sum assured in the new life policies soared by this much to $117 billion.
LIA president Khoo Kah Siang attributed the strong showing to growth across the businesses and insurers' concerted efforts to close the gap with those lacking adequate protection and retirement coverage. Insurers, he noted, have been actively offering plans in the retirement space in the last few years, helping to provide some form of long-term savings for customers.
Last year, nearly 18,000 plans providing regular payouts from the age of retirement were sold, with total weighted premiums of $163 million, accounting for 5 per cent of total new business.
Dr Khoo said: "We are conservatively positive on the outlook for this year and expect to continue to grow... The level of insurance spending per citizen here is a low 5 per cent, compared with mature markets like Taiwan and Japan."
LIA is working on implementation details of recommendations by the Health Insurance Task Force - aimed at reining in escalating claim costs - and expects to disclose the details in April. It also plans to introduce revisions to insurance sales illustrations by early next year.
For the full year of 2016, weighted single premium product sales rose 9 per cent to $1.03 billion, boosted by a 15 per cent growth in non-linked products, such as term, whole life and savings plans, to $799 million.
For the quarter ended Dec 31, total weighted new business premiums rose 15 per cent to $955.3 million, year on year. This was driven by a healthy growth of 20 per cent in annual premium sales to $661.1 million, while weighted single premium products registered a 4 per cent increase to $294.2 million.
Banks were the main channel of distribution, representing $1.25 billion or 38 per cent of total weighted new business premiums last year. Agents tied to insurers accounted for 37 per cent and financial advisers 21 per cent. The other 4 per cent came from other products that are sold without intermediaries such as ElderShield.
While Singapore's employment growth hit a 13-year low last year, numbers in the life insurance sector rose 5 per cent to 6,663 from 2015.