The bills

Arm healing nicely
Arm healing nicely

A lot of us, not without justification, worry about medical bills. This is especially so if you are hit with a serious illness which require extensive and expensive medical care. And there are such cases. I am not going to deny that there are not a few people and families who struggle with medical fees.

What I hope to do, however, that in spite of this, you may take heart that not everyone may have to go through such trying times, if you do not ignore symptoms and catch your illness early. This may not only save your life but also prevent potentially crippling medical expense.

Anyway, I have received the bills for my two medical procedures – both done in the same month of September 2016.

The two procedures are:

  1. Angiography
  2. Quadruple coronary heart bypass graft (CABG)

In this article, I will focus on the costs of these two procedures, as per my own case.

ANGIOGRAPHY

Bill for angiography, including PCI
Bill for angiography, including PCI

There were two things that was done on me:

  1. Angiography – where basically they injected a dye into my veins to detect where the arterial bloackages were.
  2. The cardiologist had to do another test using the PCI machine to test the nature of the blockages itself, to see if I could undergo angioplasty (the op where stents are inserted to relief the blockages).

When you do an angioplasty, it is called “percutaneous coronary intervention” (PCI or angioplasty with stent).

The same machine, as I understand it, which is used to do the angioplasty was also the same one used to test the nature of the blockages.

Hence, the fees for the test is perhaps as high as the actual angioplasty (minus the cost of stents).

The so-called PCI test alone came to be some S$4,379.85.

So, the total costs indicated on the bill are for these two procedures – the angiography, and the use of the PCI machine to test the blockages.

That total came to be: SGD$ 10,727.09

After government grants of SGD$6,767.90, I am left with a bill of SGD$3,959.19.

MEDISHIELD LIFE

Now, where does Medishield Life kick in?

Medishield Life
Medishield Life

Before we get into the numbers, there are a few things you have to know about Medishield Life.

  1. You are required to pay a deductible on the first bill in a policy year.
  2. You are required to pay co-insurance of 10% of the net bill.

So, to cut a long story short, in my case, I had to pay $1,500 (deductible) and co-insurance of $80 (10% of net bill), and the rest is paid by Medishield Life ($720).

Remember that this deductible ($1,500) only applies to your first bill in a policy year.

And this is also why it is important for you to do your procedures in the same policy year if you can, so that you save on costs. (Remember to always insist on having the soonest possible medical appointments. Most polyclinic, for example, will give you a 6 month lead time on appointments, which can be a killer, literally!)

So, in short, for this first angiography bill, it looks like this:

  • Total costs before govt grants: S$10,727.09
  • Total costs after govt grants ($6,767.90) : S$3,959.19
  • Minus $720 from Medishiled Life : S$3,239.19

And from here, you would factor in Medisave and private insurance (if any), and the remaining you would have to pay by cash.

In the end, since I do not have much in Medisave, I would have to pay S$2,348.71 in cash.

So, that’s for the angiography.

BYPASS

My second procedure, the bypass surgery itself, took place on the same month as the angiography. So both fell within the same Medishield Life policy year.

This means I do not have to pay the $1,500 deductible, and the 10% co-insurance.

The bill then becomes very straightforward (I’d stayed in the ICA & high dependency ward for a total of 3 days, and C Class ward for 4 days):

Bill for bypass op
Bill for bypass op

The total bill for the bypass surgery is $25,554.51.

Government subsidies amount to $20,644.88.

Medishield Life pays 92% of the net bill of $4,909.83.

That’s pretty substantial.

I am left with a S$380 bill which I pay through my Medisave.

In the end, I pay $0 in cash.

As an aside, I would just like to add this: some people have criticised Medishield Life as a rip-off scheme. I don’t think it is. I do know that it is a lifesaver for many poor and elderly folks who worry themselves sick whenever they contemplate going to the doctor’s.

Medishield Life, which is not without flaws, does help, and remember that it is aimed at helping the less well-off with the bigger medical bills.

It is a basic insurance plan, not meant to be a comprehensive one.

For those who can afford it, go get the Integrated Shield Plans offered by insurance companies. They complement Medishield Life.

If you are unable to foot out a one lump sum to pay the bills, you can go to the hospital (mine is SGH) and apply to pay by installments, which is what I intend to do.

Having said all of the above, do keep in mind that depending on your situation or medical circumstances, you may need follow-up procedures or physiotherapy, for example.

I will need 16 sessions of physical training with hospital trainers, and each session costs S$15.50. And there will be follow-up consultations with my surgeon and cardiologist as well.

All this will add to the costs which I will have to pay out of pocket.

But thankfully, they are not many and the costs are manageable.

So, in the end, what I want to say is don’t let your fear of medical costs paralyse you from doing what you may need for your health. Sometimes, we frighten ourselves with the unknown, or by listening to others who may not know accurate information, or to rumours and fearmongering.

Your health is your responsibility.

Remember, no one can be healthy for you.

And if you end up in a worse situation than perhaps need be, it is you who will suffer for it.

So, get yourself checked early and regularly.

And keep a healthy lifestyle too.

That, ultimately, is the best way to avoid huge medical bills.

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