This article was narrated to us by Jia Qing, whose grandmother suffered a stroke from out of the blue back in 2010. He walked us through the entire journey, and how it influenced his decision to alter other people’s financial destinies for a living.
Skimping on Insurance seemed like a great idea back then
My grandmother has always been a big part of my life, as far as I can remember. She was active, full of energy, and spent a large portion of that vigor being overprotective over her grandchildren. I certainty wasn’t complaining about that.
But there was no denying it, she was getting on in years. Back in 2010, we celebrated her 80th birthday. And unlike some of her peers who needed dentures and a walking aid to navigate their immediate world, my grandmother had been extraordinarily healthy.
Perhaps that was the reason why my mother thought about the wisdom of continuing with Ah Ma’s hospitalization plan. It was a pretty comprehensive one (Editor: Jia Qing shared that it was NTUC IncomeShield’s Advantage Plan with a full cash rider to cover deductibles and co-insurance, up to A-wards in Restructured hospitals) but due to her age, it was rather costly.
My mother had been paying the premiums dutifully for years, and (in her mind) it did add up to quite a sum. Ah Ma has always been so healthy, so it would be unlikely that she would be using this plan. To continue with it would seem like burning cash for no particular reason.
So on one uneventful day, after both women consulted each other, they both decided that this plan was really not necessary and went ahead to cancel it.
The relief of saving those premiums only lasted a fortnight. Then came the regret.
Life had other plans for us, just 14 days later
Strange how life works. One minute the world seems to be humming along just fine, with clear blue skies and not an inkling of trouble in sight. The next moment everything is topsy-turvy, when you least expect it.
It happened on a Thursday afternoon, exactly 14 days after my grandmother’s hospitalization policy was cancelled. She was going about her daily affairs, when she suffered a stroke right then and there in the bathroom, at 430 pm.
No one could have saw it coming. This was a woman who had no trouble whatsoever walking up and down stairs, with fully functional mental faculties, and a blood pressure level that would be the envy of those 20 years her junior. She didn’t drink, neither was she a smoker. But her body failed her right there and then.
She was immediately paralyzed from the waist down and couldn’t move, and she could have laid there for hours until my mother came home from work. Thankfully, my mother miraculously decided to return home early that day, and so my grandmother was rushed to NUH.
The bills were easy enough to bear, but the guilt wasn’t
It is said that sickness doesn’t just affect the person afflicted with it, but also everyone close to him or her. It was certainly the case for my grandmother. There were the scans. There were the X-rays. There were the physiotherapy sessions. Speech therapy. She wasn’t making any progress, and we shared the despair and helplessness.
When it was all said and done, Grandmother spent over 50 days in the hospital. The final cost of the whole saga wasn’t staggering by most standards: A little over $6,200, and over half of it payable by Medisave.
Here are some snap shots of one of the bills:
What shook my mother was the manner in which Ah Ma had to spend all her time in NUH – in a C ward. It was un-airconditioned, and its large ward size (up to 8 people in the same ward) meant that there was always some hustle and bustle going on. Though she didn’t admit it to me, my mother felt guilty that her own mother had to put up with those conditions. Just because they wanted to save some money.
Ah Ma could have been put up in an A-ward if we continued the plan, but it was financially impossible for us without the cover. That very same cover cost about $7 a day, and I’m pretty sure if my mother had a chance to re-think her decision, then she would have gladly paid up to 10 times that amount to assuage her guilt.
What might have been, if we continued doing the right thing
Ah Ma was eventually discharged from NUH because she wasn’t getting any better. Her only options were home care or a nursing home – and we chose the latter option because we couldn’t give her adequate care by ourselves.
The nursing home monthly fees come to over $700 a month, a financial cost that we are still bearing up to this day.
I cannot help but think that if we had been properly informed about the importance of cover instead of dismissing it lightly, then perhaps we would be in a very different position today – both emotional and financial.
If we had properly taken care of Ah Ma’s coverage needs (Ed: Perhaps a Whole Life Plan with Critical Illness cover, together with a comprehensive Shield Plan) then we would not have to worry so much about the cost of treatment and also rehabilitation.
That is one mistake that I hope will never happen to others.
Today I help others avoid the same fate
That was 7 years ago, when I was still serving NS. The entire episode left a profound impact on me, and right after graduation I knew that my own experience compelled me to helping others avoid that same fate.
About the Contributor
Jia Qing has been a financial consultant for the last 5 years.
His specialty and primary focus is that of protection and financial risk management, where he has helped over 180 of his clients – and their families – secure their financial future. He sees this as a meaningful and fulfilling role, even if the going is rough at times.
He can be reached at 91707571.
We thank Jia Qing for graciously stepping forward to make his own story be heard. If you too have a story to share, we would love to hear from you as well. You could be potentially making a profound difference to someone’s life in the process.
www.ClearlySurely.com aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.
Sorry for being blunt…
But for major stroke at advanced age, A-class or C-class won’t make much difference.
Initial treatment will be at ICU / Surgical stage which is the same for both A or C class, to resolve ischaemic or haemorrhagic brain condition (as the case may be).
After that main focus will be on long-term rehab (PT/OT) which is expensive & considered post-hospitalization. Only 1 or 2 private Shield plans may cover up to 6 or 12 months, and these plans are super expensive.
As for nursing home coverage & post-hospital rehab, the appropriate plan is Long Term Care, which is much more cost effective than Wholelife CI.
Shield plans to cover private hospitals are seeing premiums increasing at average rate of 15% to 20% per annum — same as medical cost inflation at private levels. This situation is made worse with full coverage riders etc as moral hazard behavior by both patients & doctors are encouraged. Insurers are not charities.
We need to see healthcare as a “basic necessity” and not a “right”. Just like food. We may want ourselves or our loved ones to eat top-of-the-line organic or abalone or bird’s nest everyday. But it depends on our financial resources. Economic rice & vegetables will work just as well to provide nutrition & sustenance.
To save costs for medical coverage, there are many easy steps to take, instead of simply cancelling the entire private plan:
1) Skip the add-on riders.
2) Go for B1 class plans (Now we have the Standard B1 plans across various insurers)
B1 class are air-con 4-bed with ensuite toilet. Anyway only those less sick (or family members) will enjoy — those really sick / injured not much difference in C or A class.
As someone who worked in govt hospitals for almost 10 yrs, I actually prefer the non-aircon wards — better air circulation.
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Truly, this article has a hallmark of its author, a financial advisor! An old lady regretted her decision in aborting a hospitalisation policy to be downgraded to C ward?
I say ‘crap’ to the article for its bias to C-ward. I believe the author’s Mother and Grandmother made the right decision.
I’m a pensioner who is entitled to A-ward when hospitalised. Did I?
About 5 years ago, I admitted to CGH for an operation. During admission, I insisted on C-ward inspite of persuasion from my Wife, admission staff and relatives. Of course, I knew the difference between the two wards. Anyway, the 10 days I stayed in the C-ward was an enjoyable one. No regrets.