Thursday, March 08, 2007

Increase Medical Cover When Visiting Developed Countries

Recently, I met a young professional who had an unfortunate accident while in the United States of America (US).

She was admitted in hospital for about a week and she underwent various surgeries to place implants in her body.

She was discharged and returned back to Singapore two weeks later. The airlines had to make special arrangements for her to take the plane.

Her medical bill alone for that short period was about US$300,000, including imaging services. She still has other bills pending.

Her insurer paid out its maximum liability of S$250,000 for medical expenses. The person was clearly under-insured. She will now have to pay the remaining bill out of her own pocket.

Due to her continuing treatment, she is also unable to afford legal advice in US, which may help in reducing her medical bill.

I asked a company's chief executive, who has lived in the US for some time, if such bills are a norm. He confirmed it was, especially for foreigners since their medical care is not subsidised.

He offered the following advice, "If you are travelling to a developled country like the US or United Kingdom, be sure to top-up your insurance cover. Otherwise, you are likely to find yourself inadequately protected in a medical emergency."

For example, in such a situation, one can opt for NTUC Income's Deluxe Plan, which would cover up to $500,000 of one's medical expenses.

Interestingly, there is no limit on medical expenses under the travel cover of American Home Assurance Company for persons insured, who are below 70 years old!

Dharmendra Yadav

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify something (I'm from the US). Hospitals in the US do not subsidize care for American citizens versus foreigners. Perhaps your friend is slightly mistaken on this point. Although such bills are the norm in the US (and $500,000 sounds quite reasonable depending on the care received), Americans also have to pay these high bills.

The only subsidies offered to Americans are Medicare (for the elderly) and Medicaid (for the very poor). Otherwise Americans rely on private insurance, just like in Singapore. Hospitals are prohibited by law from price discrimination based on country of origin. They cannot charge Singaporeans more than they would charge any American. This is in stark contrast to the Singaporean system, where Singapore citizens enjoy subsidized care and foreigners have to pay more.