Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Can healthcare be affordable when we are living longer?

My father recently suffered a heart attack and had to go for an operation to open up the constricted arteries using stents. I do not agree with some of the stuff that he eats but he leads quite an active lifestyle. a lot of walking here and there. The only downside is that he is a shift worker, so his sleeping patterns are affected. It was thus a shock when the doctor told me about what happened.

The bill was also another shocker. I had to go through some "financial  counselling" since I was the next-of-kin and the gross bill (operation plus ward before subsidies) came up to S$15,000. After deducting for government subsidies, the estimated bill came down to S$5,000 and the "financial counsellor told me that me this could be offset by insurance, medisave and other means (cold hard cash). The balance was a manageable amount and it will be likely fully covered by my father's company insurance.

My father is about statutory retirement age. The big question is, how is he going to pay for any future hospital stays should he suffer from another heart attack after his retirement? He has a few options such as paying from savings or Medisave; settling from private insurance; his children paying; and may be to sell his house. There are pros and cons to each option and I admit that I am not very clear how insurance can cover you after 65 or how Medisave can offset most of the medical bills.

But the depressing conclusion is that unless you have a big house, a lot of money or children, the older you get, healthcare will not be affordable. Upon retirement, while the range of diseases that may strike an individual increases, the individual's ability to pay, especially if you are less-than-average, diminishes rapidly. It reminds me of a saying I heard when I was young, that you are better off dead than sick in Singapore.

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