In the previous article here, Mark is a young father who found out he was diagnosed with Stage 3 cancer just 3 days after his baby was born.
Because he took a very active hand in purchasing and handling his own insurance policies, even with the claims, he wanted to share some pointers that could make a world of difference to you. Just like it did for him.
Here is what he has to say.
Insurance might be confusing. But worth your time
I long had an interest in insurance, especially finding out what is worth to buy, and what isn’t. Unfortunately, there is often conflicting or non-existent information out there, and I wasn’t always sure that what I bought would be useful. After getting cancer and claiming for a ton of bills, I’m pretty confident I know better now. (Hopefully this is not the route of learning that you will take as well)
I understand that getting cancer in my early thirties is pretty unique, and most people will not experience that. However, the intent of this article is to share my own experience from my cancer journey, from an insurance and value perspective, and hope others can find it useful.
Here, I cover my thoughts on the Medishield- Integrated Plans (IPs)
Get the best plan that you can afford – it will be worth it
It has been covered before on why Medishield Life isn’t sufficient.
Even though having any IP is preferable to none at all, you should not go crazy when deciding to upgrade your cover. Your IP is meant to give you extra cover, not to cause you financial hardship.
Personally, I would say that as much as you can afford it, get a private plan. Having been through both public and private hospitals, I would say the differences can be quite significant.
The benefits of a private IP are beyond just getting a nicer bed in a nicer hospital. It expands your options for treatment drastically. This means you can get treatment from all the best doctors in Singapore, not just those in the public hospitals. This is especially crucial if you get hit by a rare disease (I’m speaking from experience here). Seeing a doctor is also much faster.
For me, I was able to get a scan which discovered the tumour and a specialist in the space of a few hours. I could walk across the road to my private hospital to get radiotherapy treatment which lasted for 6 weeks. The queue to wait was practically non-existent compared to the public hospitals. I really appreciated this, given the severe fatigue and weakness that treatment caused.
A long post-hospitalisation outpatient coverage period is useful beyond imagination. As a cancer patient, in addition to regular doctor check-ups, I will have to do scans up to 4 times a year for the foreseeable future. Each of this is about $2,000. If this is no longer within three months from my hospitalisation date, I will need to pay for this out of my own pocket. I imagine that others, such as people who have suffered a stroke or heart attack, have similar long-term needs and medications.
Get the riders as well
Riders on IPs generally do two things:
(1) Limit the amount you pay and
(2) Pay you cash for every day spent in the hospital.
My hospital bills were about $100,000. I estimate that without the payment cap, I would have paid $3,500 (deductible) + (10% of remaining amount) = $13,150. In the end, I paid about $3,000, a much more affordable amount. The $10,000 I saved was worth about 50 years of the rider’s premiums.
Another useful rider is the one that pays you a cash benefit for each day you are warded (called daily hospital cash), typically $100 – $200 a day.
The great advantage of this rider as compared with other policies such as critical illness or disability income is that the claim is fast and easy. You don’t need to fill out long forms or get a doctor’s statement (takes 4-6 weeks). This claim is automatic, and easily verifiable with the discharge summary. Given that this can be used for both accidents and illnesses, and long hospital stays are not uncommon, this is something I would recommend most people to have. It should be tied to your IP and not your critical illness plans, as these plans end once you have contacted a critical illness. Besides, it feels nice to know that you are earning money even while on the hospital bed and can take your time to recover.
Understand your limitations on your IP
Read your policy terms and conditions carefully.
Some people get upset or surprised when they learn that not all their medical bills are covered, but it is all there in black and white. Don’t rely on your agent to tell you, because if they are wrong, you are liable for the bills, not your agent.
For example, outpatient charges aren’t part of your IP, unless it is within a set period from your hospitalization, typically 100 days. Outpatient charges can be very expensive, typically ranging from $100 – $200 a visit if you are not subsidized. Scans and medicine would also be much higher if they are not subsidized. This is why many people opt to downgrade to a “B” ward and below, despite being qualified for a higher class, because they will continue to get subsided outpatient visits and medicine.
Other common medical charges not usually covered under IPs are nursing home stays, home nursing, physiotherapy, and overseas treatments.
Buy your IP and other policies as soon as you can
While I feel this is very “duh”, get your cover as early as possible. I bought one for my kid immediately after she was born. Illnesses can sneak up on you without warning. Once you get common conditions like hypertension and diabetes, you can wave goodbye to good coverage and say hello to higher prices and exclusions, or no coverage at all.
A large emergency cash stash is vital, even with an IP. A lot of my bills weren’t covered by a letter of guarantee and I had to pay first and be reimbursed later. This is especially true for private hospital bills, which tend to be much larger than those from the public hospitals. You also have to consider that you might be out of work for a long period of time. So besides the IP, you do need other policies such as critical illness and perhaps disability income.
The most important mindset to adopt
To end, I would encourage people to take a mindset that insurance is an expense.
This means that that it is a necessary and unavoidable part of life. If you don’t get an illness and claim insurance for your entire life, don’t look back and think “what a waste of money”.
Thank your lucky stars for your good health.
But the future is uncertain, and no one can guarantee your good health forever. When and if that happens, I do hope that you would have taken the steps needed to protect yourself and your family.
I would like to thank the Clearly Surely Team for featuring my story, and letting me express my thoughts on their platform.
From Clearly Surely
Dear Mark, your courage and conviction to share is an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing and we wish you the best.
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.