Happy (belated) National Day! For my international friends, National Day is Singapore’s version of Independence Day – it’s on the 9th of August, and we have a huge-ass parade with like 20,000 people in it and fireworks and the whole shebang. Everyone gets really nationalistic about the the whole thing, so I decided to do my civic duty today and educate everyone about an issue I think is super important for all Singaporeans. And in case you’re wondering about the title; no – it’s got nothing to do with this civic duty.
Rumor Has It
So in the days leading up to National Day, there was huge speculation that Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s founder and first Prime Minister (now 89), had died. The rumors went viral on Twitter and Facebook – literally everyone was talking about it and speculating if flags would have to be flown at half-mast on August 9th. “Lee Kuan Yew” and “Lee Kuan Yew dead” became one of the most searched terms in Singapore this week. It later turned out to be false when he later appeared at the National Day Parade, to rousing applause and like 10 billion camera flashes.
So according to this article, LKY has a neurological disease that makes his movements unsteady, but is otherwise in good health. While everyone was coming up with conspiracy theories that the state was trying to mask his death till after the parade, the personal finance geek in me had one question in my mind: “Man… if I had a medical condition like that, how much would that all COST?” (Yeah, I know – some people live off juicy rumors and intricate conspiracy theories, I get my kicks doing practical financial calculations)
The Biggest Risk for Young, Sexy, Singaporeans
Say you’re a young, sexy, unmarried Singaporean with no commitments: no student debt, no mortgage, and earning a comfortable income at an awesome job. What’s the worst thing that could happen to you right now? No, it’s not that you might die (because you don’t have a family and kids to support, and your parents have hopefully accumulated enough for retirement). And it’s not that you might lose your job (because you should be able to get another one pretty easily).
The biggest risk in your life right now is that the government would make it mandatory to play that “Love Your Ride” song on our subways, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week again. Oh, the horror. I would literally smash an MRT window and commit suicide.
But other than that, the second biggest risk in your life is to have a huge anvil fall on your head (or any other accident)… and you don’t die from it. Medical costs are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the US. Even more startling – 78% of filers had medical insurance at the start of their illness! It’s freakin crazy, because many of us assume that as long as we’re covered under Medishield (Singapore’s opt-out state-run health insurance programme), that it’s totally going to be fine. Maybe, or maybe not.
Now, Singapore isn’t perfect, but one superdamnawesome thing about it is that it has a stellar healthcare programme. In my opinion, way better than the one in pre-Obamacare US. Wards and healthcare are subsidized depending on your income, medical insurance is automatic, and hospital bills are kept reasonably affordable. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t leave anything to chance – it’s entirely possible that your medical expenses, even after insurance, could amount to tens of thousands of dollars because Medishield doesn’t cover your entire hospital bill – it’s subject to a cap, deductible, and co-insurance as well (I know, I didn’t know what the hell “deductible” and “co-insurance” was too until I looked it up. I’ll spare you the details, but you can check it out here).
3 Steps To Kick Murphy’s Ass
I’m no pessimist, but I believe in being prepared. And so this National Day, I’m going to do my CIVIC DUTY and tell you all about how to protect your family members and yourself from financial calamity from a huge hospital bill. Are you ready? Let’s do it:
Step 1: Check that you, and your family members, are covered under Medishield. You’re automatically enrolled if you were born after 2007, registered in national schools after 2008, contribute to CPF after the age of 16, or get married in Singapore. Still, some of your family members might be missed out. Don’t take that chance and enroll them if they’re eligible.
Step 2: Get a private Shield plan for your entire family. The crappy thing about Medishield as that it only lets you claim up to a certain amount (check out the benefits here) and some hospital bills are way bigger than that cap. Shield plans from private insurers sit on top of your existing Medishield coverage to cover your hospital bill “as-charged”, though you’ll still have to pay for the deductibles and co-insurance.
Step 2 should be enough for most young people, because you’re effectively protected against a gigantic hospital bill, and your liability is limited to the deductible and co-insurance, which is a fraction of the entire bill. Most people are also unlikely to be hospitalized more than twice in their lives.
However, some of you may have dependents who cannot be covered by private insurers. For example, my sister is autistic, and private insurers will not insure her because they deem mentally disabled people as higher risk. (This, in my opinion, is an absolutely ridiculous proposition – it’s entirely wrong to lump all mental conditions into an arbitrary “high-risk” category because most mentally disabled people are at no higher risk than ordinary people. And if you agree with me, you should totally raise this to your MP.) If you’re in such a situation, or if your dependents have pre-existing conditions that cannot be covered by insurance, you can go to Step 3.
Step 3: Get a full-coverage rider. This covers the deductible and co-insurance parts of health insurance, so you’ll never have to worry about paying a cent for your medical bills. Now, this isn’t for everyone, because the premiums are a lot more expensive than the regular Shield plans. But if you’re in a situation like mine, you can have all of YOUR medical bills taken care off by insurers so that your medical savings (in Medisave) can go towards paying for your dependents’ medical bills that are not covered by insurance.
That’s it! In a nutshell – Our healthcare system is one of the best initiatives our government has given us ever. Seriously. I’m tearing up with nationalistic pride right now. Still, even with an awesome healthcare system, you still run the risk of wiping out your hard-earned savings with an unexpected medical bill, even with Medishield. So do your civic duty this National Day – get yourself covered with a private plan, and tell everyone you know to read cheerfulegg.com for more awesome financial advice 😉