By Wong Wei Han
is one of those stories that we have all heard but have rarely taken
Saturday morning last month, my wife suddenly felt a lump in her
lower left abdomen.
was a lot of hand-wringing as we waited our turn at the
subsequent confirmation that it was a tumour rendered us dumbstruck,
because there had been no symptoms at all.
we prepared for her surgery, disbelief, fear and hope clashed across
our minds. And worry.
had no health insurance coverage beyond the basic MediShield Life,
and the medical fees would be a financial setback casting a pall over
our uncertain future.
I'm grateful that this story had the best possible ending.
tumour turned out to be a non-cancerous fibroid growth which was
removed without damage to any organ, thanks to Dr Tay Eng Hseon at
the Thomson Medical Centre.
my wife's company insurance is a surprisingly robust plan that will
mitigate a substantial part of the medical fees.
we cannot ride our luck forever hoping things will always turn out
for the better.
just how well prepared are you for major health situations?
is a question that I pray our readers will ask themselves and have a
good answer for, at a time when private healthcare costs are said to
be rising 18 per cent yearly.
I look back on this scary episode of my life, I realise I need to do
a lot more to understand better what my options are in terms of
insurance coverage for medical and hospitalisation fees.
some comfort to know that all citizens and permanent residents are
already protected by MediShield Life. This is the compulsory national
insurance scheme fully rolled out in 2015, but its adequacy makes for
very frequent discussions by the public and media.
of the concerns are around the scheme's claim limits for hospital
ward and surgery fees, typically the heftiest bits on the bill of a
are also deductibles and co-insurance payments to consider - the
amounts you have to fork out before the scheme coverage kicks in.
our case, MediShield Life coverage was unfortunately not sufficient.
surgery claim limit of $2,000 was far below what my wife was charged
at Thomson, a facility we chose to ensure she could have the tumour
removed as soon as possible. My wife had her operation two days after
we should not expect a national insurance plan to provide full
coverage for all situations. It has to be a prudent and sustainable
it begs the question as to what more you can do to ensure you have
other layers of protection, especially for situations where you want
to have more freedom in choosing your medical services.
you should start by finding out from your human resource department
whether your employment comes with group personal insurance benefits,
and, if so, what they are for, their claim limit and the claim
are numerous insurance providers in the market and the products are
structured very differently.
on the nature of your company or job - for instance, it may involve
higher risks of accident - you may find you are entitled to very
generous coverage for hospitalisation and outpatient expenses.
others, it can be somewhat lacking, with a low cap on the annual
claim amount, requirement for co-payment, and a ward-class limitation
for employees of different pay grades.
in the latter case, it is nothing to sneer at. The thing about a
medical scare is that it can jump at you when you're least prepared.
Every bit of help will count, particularly for less well-off
you're willing to take another step forward, let us very seriously
consider purchasing an Integrated Shield Plan (IP) and its rider
IP is a private insurance plan built on the basic MediShield Life
policy, designed for a higher level of protection at better wards in
government and private hospitals.
IP premiums, along with the MediShield Life premiums, are payable by
Medisave, subject to additional withdrawal limit.
a rider on top of an IP further covers the co-insurance and
deductible components. The rider premiums must be paid with your own
I look through the products on offer from the six IP providers in the
market - AIA, Aviva, Axa, Great Eastern, NTUC Income and Prudential -
it seems to me that even the fullest and, hence, most expensive
coverage is well worth its asking price.
instance, one of the six providers prices its most expensive IP
product at an annual premium of no more than $300 for those below the
age of 40. Remember, this is payable by Medisave, and $300 a year for
employed individuals of this age group should be very manageable.
to it the most expensive rider plan and you will have to pay an
annual cash sum of no more than $367. This is what you actually pay
out of your wallet - again a very small sum.
exchange, you will have total coverage of up to $1 million a year. If
my wife had it - if she had forked out a minute fraction of her
annual income for it - she would not have to pay a single cent for
all items before, during and after her hospitalisation.
asked the Life Insurance Association executive director Pauline Lim
how common IPs are, and whether there are many unprotected
individuals like my wife. I was glad to hear that they cover 64 per
cent of residents, with around half of these also having rider
at Dec 31, 2016, 2.89 million lives were covered by IPs and IP
riders, with total premiums amounting to $1.42 billion," Ms Lim
I presented all this information to suggest that you must purchase
the most expensive IP because it's a no-brainer? Not at all. The
affordability of a financial product is always subjective, and you
should always gauge it with your income level and existing financial
not uncommon for IP holders to "downgrade" their policies
as they get older, to lessen the financial burden of rising premiums
in tandem with the policy holder's age.
I hope I have at least reached out to some of you who have not yet
paid close attention to your health insurance options.
I hope you can at least take away the message that health can be
fragile no matter the age, and there is no better investment than
spending what you can to ensure that when life throws its ugly
surprises at you, you can face them knowing you have the means to