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Guide to Supplementary Major Medical Benefit (SMM)

What is the supplementary major medical benefit? What does it cover? How do I add it to my plan?
Last update:
21st June 2023
Reviewed by a licensed advisor
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What is the supplementary major medical benefit? What does it cover? How do I add it to my plan?
Last update: 21st June 2023

Whether you have employee health benefits or an individual health insurance plan, your insurance provider might offer the optional supplementary major medical benefit (SMM). Find out how the SMM can enhance your coverage and boost your protection.

What is the supplementary major medical benefit?

Offered as an option in some health insurance plans, the supplementary major medical benefit covers expenses that a basic medical plan does not. Once medical expenses exceed the basic plan’s coverage amount, the SMM comes into effect. The SMM covers a set percentage of hospital expenses in excess of the maximum payable hospital benefits after taking into account any applicable deductible or coinsurance and up to the maximum SMM benefit limit.

The SMM reimbursement percentage varies per insurer but is usually around 80%.

What does the SMM benefit cover?

The SMM covers hospitalization expenses such as room and board, attending doctor's visits, specialist consultations, intensive care, surgeon's fees, operating theater charges, hospital companion bed, and more. Some plans may allow you to extend SMM coverage to your dependents.

Who needs supplementary major medical cover?

The SMM benefit may be useful if the coverage limit for the inpatient benefits (also known as hospital and surgical benefits) in your basic medical plan is inadequate for your needs. The SMM can help you significantly reduce the amount you pay out of pocket for medical expenses.

SMM case study

Suppose a person who has group medical insurance with the additional supplementary major medical benefit has had an angioplasty at a private hospital.

Amounts below are shown in Hong Kong Dollars.

  • Total medical expenses: $100,000
  • Group medical yearly maximum benefit limit: $75,000
  • SMM reimbursement percentage: 80%
  • SMM per disability limit: $300,000

Without SMM:

  • Insurer pays: $75,000 (benefit limit)
  • Patient pays: $25,000

With SMM:

  • Insurer pays: $95,000 (benefit limit + excess*80%)
  • Patient pays: $5,000

Because the patient has SMM added to their group medical insurance plan, they can avoid paying $20,000 for out-of-pocket medical expenses.

What to look out for when using the SMM benefit

Pay attention to the sub-limits and caps within your SMM benefit, which vary by insurer and policy. Limits may vary based on age; for example, they may be higher for those under the age of 80 years. You’ll also want to pay attention to this benefit's yearly and lifetime limits.

Moreover, coverage under the SMM for daily room and board, attending doctor’s visits and intensive care might only begin from the 121st day of confinement (i.e., after the inpatient benefit limit has been exhausted) and be capped to a certain amount per day.

Be careful to stick to the hospital room class specified in your benefit schedule, otherwise, the reimbursement percentage applicable for all the excess amounts payable might be reduced, or you might not be reimbursed at all under the SMM benefit.

How to add SMM to your plan

Whether you have a group health insurance plan or an individual plan, if you are interested in the SMM benefit, get in touch with your insurance broker or advisor. They can help you determine if the SMM is available for your plan and guide you through the steps for adding it.

If your plan doesn’t offer SMM as an option, then your advisor can walk you through other alternatives to enhance your protection for peace of mind (such as top-up insurance).

Got a question about health insurance?


What does supplementary major medical mean?

Supplementary major medical is an optional benefit offered by some health insurance plans to enhance protection. It covers up to a set percentage of hospital expenses in excess of the maximum payable benefits in the basic plan.

Is the supplementary major medical benefit worth it?

If your group health insurance plan has strict caps and limits on your inpatient benefit, then the supplementary major medical benefit may be worth considering. (On the other hand, if your health insurance plan offers full coverage for inpatient expenses with a high annual limit, then you probably don’t need SMM.)

What is the difference between supplementary major medical and top-up insurance?

The supplementary major medical benefit is an optional benefit that can be added to your existing plan. It covers excess inpatient and related expenses only.

On the other hand, top-up insurance is a standalone plan or rider that covers the gaps left open by your employer-provided health insurance (not limited to inpatient and related expenses).

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This article was independently written by Alea and is not sponsored. It is informative only and not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and should never be relied upon for specific advice.