When baby gets seriously ill

The other day, a friend forwarded to a few of us this link to a blog, Save Neira Ng – 3.5 months old baby from Singapore. Poor baby Neira was diagnosed with two tumors in her brain a few weeks ago. She had 75% of one tumor removed first and the rest of it done on the past Monday. The operations had gone well and she will have to go for the third operation to remove the second tumor three weeks later. It appears to me that poor Neira might have cancer because she has to undergo chemotherapy after the operations.

It’s heartbreaking for parents to see their children suffering, particularly at such young age, and I feel for them. Even symptoms like vomiting or high fever get us worried for Buddy, least alone seeing your baby having to go through brain surgery 3 times. To be expected, the medical costs for the operations are in the six-figure sum. Unfortunately, Neira’s parents didn’t get her hospitalization or medical insurance, and they had to rely on the father’s Medisave (portion of the pension fund allocated for medical use) and government subsidies for the first operation.

Right now the financial situation of the parents is really tight, and they don’t have the means to pay for further treatments. Unfortunately for them, one of the biggest flaws in our healthcare systems is that patients and their families are expected to depend on themselves to pay for medical costs. Help from social services will only be rendered when the family has depleted their medical pension funds and one parent is unemployed. Basically you are left to your wits’ end and at the brink of bankruptcy before the state steps in. This situation has caused families to be indebted and for some old folks not to seek treatment for fear of burdening their family financially. Anyway, back to Neira, her parents are seeking for donations to help allay the huge medical cost. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.

I want to urge all parents, including would-be parents, that you should seriously consider getting medical insurance plans for your children, particularly for hospitalization. For Singaporeans, that will be the Medishield plan, where premium is paid from Medisave. If you can, you should also get the extra, that pays for the deductible and co-payment, as well as a host of other benefits. The deductible is the initial amount you have to pay for a claim in a policy year (paid only once in a policy year), before you are eligible for a payout; while the co-payment is a percentage of the hospital bill above the deductible amount. Without the coverage of Medishield extra, you have to pay both the deductible and co-payment using Medisave or cash, and the amount add up to more than S$1,500 for a class C ward, the lowest class in the hospital. For more information on the use of Medisave and Medishield, you can check out the link to subsidies and schemes here.

When I was still pregnant with Buddy, my husband broached the topic of a hospitalization insurance for him. (Both my husband and I have the Medishield plan and the extra.) I checked with our insurance agent who told me that the application would only be processed when baby was a month old. Anyway she contacted me then, and I bought the same hospitalization plan and the extra insurance for Buddy which came into effect when he turned 2 months old.

I griped to my husband that the premium for extra benefits for Buddy (S$345 a year) is not much cheaper than mine, considering he is only a baby. (To be honest, in the scheme of things, it’s really not much, only S$1 a day.) The hospitalization premium is cheaper since it’s part of the national healthcare insurance pool. But the extra is not considered a necessity and i suspect the premium is higher because many did not get it.

When Buddy was hospitalized in early July for bronchiolitis, it turned out that the premium was more than worth it. The total bill was slightly more than S$2,000 and was below the deductible amount, which means if I hadn’t bought the extra for Buddy, we would not have received any pay out. In fact the bill was almost fully reimbursed.

To be honest, I’m not a fan of insurance company. All those marketing slogans of caring for their customers are just plain bullshit, because their ultimate concern is profit and loss like any other business. But insurance companies have their uses, and I consider them as necessary evils. So as a mean to allay medical cost that can cripple the finances of a family, best to take up necessary instance plans for hospitalization, critical illness, and term life insurance that includes coverage for disability. Anything else like savings or investment is best to leave them on the table.

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