Medical Insurance…Not always about Dollars and Cents
Aaron, in his 30s
Since Sept 2015, I’ve been having abdominal pain and I went for a colonoscopy to check if everything is ok. The results came back normal and no follow up was advised by the doctor.
On 30 Nov 2015, about 2 months after the normal colonoscopy result, I had to take a half day leave from work when the abdominal pain came back again. This time, I went back for a consultation at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) as I have an open appointment from the earlier colonoscopy done.
The doctor examined my abdomen and didn’t raise any point of concern. Nothing was diagnosed, no medication was provided and I was told to go home and rest. In the next few days, I was given medical leave to rest at home. During this period, the pain in the abdominal continued and I began to develop fever. Thus, I went to consult my family doctor.
From the area of abdominal pain and the occurrence of fever, my family doctor diagnosed it as appendicitis. He suggested that I seek a second opinion (with a specialist doctor) as if it was a case of a burst appendix, it will require delicate care and specialised treatment.
I was advised that there has been cases where a patient has to be operated twice as the first surgery didn’t remove the contents completely, resulting in infection. The family doctor also told me that a surgery performed by a specialist would cost an estimated $7,000 to $8,000 and I need to assess if that will be of a concern even going to a specialist immediately, in his opinion, is the best thing for me to do.
My first concern was, “Am I covered?”. If not, I may seek treatment at a government hospital.
I called Siew Ling at around 9pm. She manage to reassure and confirm the kind of coverage I have and that I’m fully covered by insurance whether I chose to go to government or private hospital. It allowed me to make a quick decision on where to go next – straight to a recommended specialist (who happens to be in private practice) or to a government hospital and seek help through the Accident and Emergency service.
I decided to go to the doctor recommended (a specialist from Gleneagles) by my family doctor and by 11pm, I had a CT scan done. I was advised that I have a burst appendix and have to be operated immediately.
The surgery went well. I was unable to walk on my own without assistance for a week post-surgery. It was definitely not a good experience.
The family holiday booked for December had to be cancelled. My parents were hawkers and they took a few days off to help look after me. My wife was 3 months pregnant at that time and we also have an 18 month boy. During the next one month, my wife and our little boy had to stay with my in-laws as I was unable to take care of them in the interim.
I was given a one month medical leave but as I reflect back, it could have been much longer if I wasn’t diagnosed and advised in time. Now, I’ve recovered well and I’m back to work. I’m thankful everything turned out well and I was able to make a complete recovery without any financial loss.
Financial Planner’s Thoughts
I encouraged Aaron to share his story because it highlights the importance of having the confidence to consider the best options available when we suffer a medical emergency. Sometimes, when the first medical consultation did not resolve the problem, it is normal for us to seek a second opinion.
In this case, Aaron had very little time to think and much less energy to weigh the different options. He went with the recommendation of his family doctor and he can make that decision quickly because he had the medical plans in place that allows him to act decisively.
While there have been many differing opinions on the need to insure comprehensively (i.e. private hospitals benefits), we should not lose sight that beyond the comparison of affordability against coverage, it’s about certainty and confidence at difficult moments that insurance decisions should really be judged on.
Story by Tay Siew Ling, ChFC