One of my friends contacted me this week with a query about insurance. Not as to whether he should have insurance, but he was shopping around, not just looking for good deals, but whether the insuring company was sound, and was it accepted by the hospital?
You see, being an international hospital we get patients from all over the world, so much so that we have an insurance department to handle all the international claims. And not all insurance companies are equal! Some are more equal than others!
In addition, if you haven’t upgraded your cover recently, then you may be in for a nasty surprise. Unfortunately, everything, be that petrol, bread, or baby’s milk 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.
Of course, the next question is do you have medical insurance? If not, 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, claiming they save money direct purchase, but then who is going to bat for you if there is a disagreement? You may feel you are being hard done by if the insurance company refuses a claim, but you are just a little policy holder up against a giant corporation.
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, sometimes requesting extracts from your clinical notes going back 10 years. 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 get to know your insurance agent, it just makes for an easier time when things are difficult.
You should also be prepared for some delays in confirming that the insurance company will cover you. That is called a guarantee of payment, known in the trade as a GOP. Without it you are liable for 100 percent of the fees. If requested medical details are coming from your GP in the UK for example, there can be even more delays, never mind the time differential between Thailand and the UK.
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!
Mind you, do you really need medical insurance? The simple answer is “yes”, particularly as an ex-pat. In your home country there is usually a “safety net” government scheme, or even a comprehensive one like the Australian Medicare. You are covered for your medical care with the premiums taken out on your behalf by the taxation office.
However, that is not the case here! You are in the situation where you are having to look after (and fund everything yourself), by yourself. Government hospitals are not set up for you, a foreigner. They are there for the Thai population. Don’t forget it!