As we age, we will all develop cataracts at some point in our lives. People usually develop cataracts after they hit their 50s. If I examine some of my older patients’ eyes, I’d almost always be able to see cataracts in most of my patients that are above the age of 60.
It’s only a matter of how mild or severe the cataract formation is.
To date, no medication or eye drop has been proven to prevent or reverse cataract formation. Therefore, surgery is the only effective way to remove a cataract.
In this article, I will break down the cost of cataract surgery in Singapore and what affects its cost.
“Do I really have cataracts and how much will it cost to check my eyes in Singapore?”
Generally, the cost of an eye examination and consultation in Singapore ranges from $100 - $500. The cost of eye examinations in Singapore is split into your doctor’s consult fees and the eye tests you need to undergo.
To check if you have cataracts, you will need to see an ophthalmologist for a detailed eye examination and consultation.
Here’s a cost breakdown of the doctor’s consultation and eye tests:
|Public Hospitals||Public Hospitals||Private Clinics|
|Consultation||$37 (Singapore Citizen) $56 (Singapore PR)|
|$100 - $300||$100 - $300|
|Tonometry (Eye pressure)||$10 - $30||$30 - $50||$30 - $50|
|Biometry (Cataract lens implant power)||$30 - $50||$100||$100 - $250|
|OCT (Health of retinal and optic nerve test)||$30 - $50||$80 - $100||$100 - $250|
The private rates for public hospitals are almost on par with the rates of private clinics.
If you seek care in a private clinic, you are able to select the doctor you want to operate on your eyes, and see the same doctor for all your follow up appointments thereafter.
If you decide to opt for the subsidised route, you will not be able to choose as the hospital will be the one assigning the doctor to you. The doctor you see at your follow up visits may also be different.
“How much is the bill for cataract surgery in Singapore?”
For a subsidised cataract surgery at public hospitals, it will cost you about $800 to $1,200 per eye.
Private rates at public hospitals will cost you around $4,000 to $6,000 per eye.
Private clinics and private hospital cataract price packages, ranges from $4,000 to $8,000 per eye.
“Will the cost of my cataract surgery be covered with Insurance or Medisave?”
Yes, the cost of your cataract surgery will be covered with insurance or Medisave.
All private health insurance policies provide coverage for cataract surgery. Depending on your insurance policy, you may even be able to claim the full amount of your cataract surgery with a private clinic.
If you do not have private insurance, don’t worry. All Singapore citizens and PRs are able to cover a part of the costs of cataract surgery with Medisave.
MOH deems cataract surgery in Singapore as a treatment for a medical condition. You are able to claim up to $2,150 off the cost of your cataract surgery for both public hospitals and private clinics. You might also be eligible to claim an additional amount with MediShield, so do check with your clinic.
“What accounts for the difference in cataract surgery costs?”
The cost of cataract surgery for a single eye comprises:
- Surgeon fees
This ranges from $2,000 to $4,000.
- Facility fees
This ranges from $1,500 to $3,000 and this covers the use of the operating room, the assisting nurses, surgical equipment and disposables used. Should complications occur and more surgical disposables are used, the facility charges will be higher as a result.
- Anaesthetist fees
This ranges from $500 to $2,000 and is applicable only if you opt for general anaesthesia to be fully asleep and unaware during the procedure or if your eye surgeon recommends sedation.
- Lens implant fees
This ranges from $500 to $2,000, depending on the type of lens used (single vision lens is less costly while multifocal lens costs more).
“How is cataract surgery done?”
First of all, your eye surgeon will determine if you have a cataract during the eye examination. He will then advise you as to whether you should proceed with the cataract operation and the appropriate choice of artificial lens (single vision lens or multifocal lens) to be implanted into your eyes.
In general, cataract surgery is usually a day surgery as it takes only 20 – 30 minutes. The procedure itself is painless as anaesthetic numbing eyedrops will be applied to numb the eyes.
A small (less than 3mm) incision will be made at the side of your cornea. The next step is to make a round opening (capsulotomy) in the front of the eyes either manually or using a laser. The surgeon will insert a small hollow blunt needle to emulsify the cataract using ultrasonic energy and suck the cataract out.
The surgeon will then place the artificial lens in the empty lens capsule to replace your cloudy cataract lens, which allows you to see clearly again.
Eye drops to prevent infection and swelling will also be prescribed before and after the surgery.
“How do I choose a good eye surgeon for my cataract surgery in Singapore?”
It’s always good to choose an eye surgeon that you trust and are comfortable with. If you do not already have a regular eye doctor that you go to, consider an eye surgeon who:
- Is recommended by friends or loved ones. If they have had a cataract operation done smoothly and successfully, they will be in a good position to recommend their eye surgeon to you.
- Has more than 10 years of experience and expertise. You know you’re in safer hands when your surgeon has had plenty of experience with cataract surgery. Experienced eye surgeons will be able to complete the operation faster and be able to handle unexpected complications during surgery, such as capsule rupture etc.
- Comes highly recommended by healthcare professionals in the industry, such as nurses etc. Insider tip: These are the best people to talk to if you would like to find out a surgeon’s skills. For example, nurses who directly assist the surgeon during surgeries will have insider knowledge of how skilled the surgeon is.
Most importantly, be cautious with selecting an eye surgeon based on price only. A higher price does not equate to a more skilful surgeon.
In the private medical industry, prices are often determined by surgeons themselves and may or may not be reflective of their surgical skills.
Instead, it would be wiser to follow the pointers listed above should you want to choose a good eye surgeon for your cataract operation.
Dr Tony Ho is a senior consultant eye surgeon with special interests in cataract and refractive surgery, childhood myopia control and retinal diseases. He is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and recipient of the prestigious Singapore Public Service Commission Merit Scholarship. Dr Ho completed his medical degree and eye specialist training in Singapore.
- Davis G et al. The Evolution of Cataract Surgery. Mo Med. (2016)
- Lawless M et al. Reviewing the visual benefits of femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery: Can we improve our outcomes? Indian J Ophthalmol. (2017)