Should you take out insurance?

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Insurance is such a thorny question these days that my hospital even has a department just to help you with advice on your insurance problems.

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of us – we need insurance, just as you need shoes for your feet.

Everyone seems to be knowledgeable on travel insurance, but remember travel insurance is to cover the period of travel. Imagine you are in KL and on the day you are leaving you are hit by a taxi. Head injury and a broken leg. You are taken to ICU and then graduate to a ward after three days. Your travel insurance expired three days ago. Where do you stand? (With a broken leg, not very easily at all!)

It appears that most, but not all, travel insurance companies will continue to pay for your hospital treatment – but for a limited time only. “Get well soon” as the sympathy card says!

Now, what about insurance while being at home? If you haven’t upgraded your cover recently, then you may be in for a nasty surprise. Unfortunately, everything, be that meds, bread, or baby’s nappies has gone up in price in the past 12 months. If you haven’t upgraded there could be a shortfall, which you have to find (or fund), not your insurance company. Remember that medical bills are all yours – the insurance company just helps you pay them.

I have been very lucky with my choice of careers. Being a medico does have advantages. If I couldn’t fix my skin rash or whatever, I could always ring a classmate who could (or should) be able to. Medications and drugs? Again no worries, just a quick raid of the samples cupboard in my surgery and I had everything I needed. But that was in the great big sunburned country Down-Under!

And then I came to Thailand. Still I blithely carried on, after all, I was ten foot tall and bullet proof. Then a friend over here had a stroke and required hospitalization. Said friend was four years younger than me and I was forced to review the ten foot bullet proof situation to find I was only five foot eleven and my anti-kryptonite had expired. Thailand was a completely new ballgame.

Enquiries as to hospital and medical costs showed that they were considerably less than the equivalent in Oz, but, and here’s the big but, there’s no government system or sickness benefits to fall back on. Suddenly you are walking the tightrope and there’s no safety net to stop you hitting terra firma.

So I took out medical insurance. Still it was no gold plated cover. But it was enough to look after me if I needed hospitalization, and that came sooner than I imagined. I had always subscribed to the “major trauma” theory, but two days of the galloping gut-rot had me flat on my back with the IV tube being my only life-line to the world. We are only mortal – even us medicos.

Do you have medical insurance? Perhaps it is time to chat to a reputable insurance agent! Yes, reliable insurance agents and reliable insurance companies do exist, but you need help through the minefield. There are those who buy directly from the insurance company, but then who is going to bat for you if there is a disagreement?

You also need help when it comes to filling out the application forms, in my opinion. And you also need to be 100 percent truthful. Yes, insurance companies will check on your records, and if it is found that you have been sparing with the truth over pre-existing conditions, expect a shock at settling up time at the cashier’s desk.

Remember too, that just because you have an insurance card does not automatically signify that ‘everything’ is covered. This is why private hospitals will ask you for a deposit on admission. If the insurance company later verifies that you are indeed covered for that ailment or condition, then you’ll get it back, but you have to prove that you are covered, not the other way round!

And remember to check out your insurance agent, it just makes for an easier time when things are difficult.