I don’t know about you, but whenever anyone mentions insurance, my brain just shuts down. I’m young, I have a great job and my employer covers my medical insurance. Even after Covid-19 happened, I didn’t really think much about it. After all, public healthcare is practically free, right?But medical emergencies can happen unexpectedly. Even if you have insurance through your job or if you usually visit your local Klinik Kesihatan, it’s probably a good idea to have your own private medical insurance. Plus, with the number of Covid-19 cases still high and government hospitals getting crowded, you might want to visit a private clinic or hospital if you need medical care during this pandemic. Otherwise, you may end up paying high hospital bills! I learnt this the hard way.
It happened a few weeks ago, when I decided to get a burger delivered from my favourite gerai after a long stressful day of work. You know the kind of day I’m talking about: All you need is something greasy and delicious to make you feel better about life. But what happened next was definitely not worth the few moments of joy from my burger-eating frenzy. I ended up with the worst food poisoning ever!
After a couple of days of major stomach pains and not being able to hold anything down, my parents drove me to the nearest private hospital where I was admitted and put on a drip. (Since we’d heard that government hospitals were crowded with Covid-19 cases, we didn’t want to risk going there and waiting in a long queue.) Not fun at all! The doctor ran all sorts of tests to confirm what was wrong with me.
At the end of the week, I felt much better, but I also got a huge medical bill. It was then I found out that I had to use some of my own money to pay the bill because it was higher than the amount covered by my employment medical insurance.
That’s when I realised it was time to get real about medical insurance.
Firstly, what is medical insurance?
A medical insurance policy is generally designed to cover the cost of medical treatment, such as the cost of hospitalisation and healthcare services if you’re diagnosed with an illness or need to be treated after having an accident.
Why is it important?
As I found out, medical treatment can be very expensive if you seek treatment in a private hospital and you could end up with a large amount of medical debt – which is definitely not good for your health! Also, while the public healthcare system is paid for by the government and therefore much cheaper than private healthcare, it’s not completely free. You will also need to pay a deposit before getting admitted for major procedures.
As for insurance coverage provided by your employer, you should get the details of the policy and check the limits under the policy. The insurance will also end when you quit, so if you find yourself between jobs with no medical insurance of your own, then you won’t have any coverage should something bad happen to you.
It’s better to get medical insurance while you are young and don’t have any pre-existing medical conditions, which could lead to higher premiums. Generally, you should get medical insurance once you have a full-time job and are earning a regular salary so that you can pay the premiums every month or year, depending on your plan.
There are many types of medical insurance plans out there, so it helps to talk to an insurance agent or broker to help you choose the best plan for you.
Important note: Covid-19 coverage
Most medical and health insurance policies don’t cover Covid-19 treatment. However, some insurers such as Etiqa, Great Eastern and AIA have started offering plans with Covid-19 coverage to their customers. Depending on your insurer, you may be able to upgrade your existing plan with Covid-19 coverage for free. Check with your insurer if you need to apply for extra Covid-19 coverage or if the coverage comes automatically with the plan.
How do I choose what medical insurance to buy?
- Know what type of insurance you’re looking for – do you have family and dependents? Are you single?
- Choose the plans you can afford.
- As far as possible, choose the plans with the highest annual and lifetime limits.
- Do you need to be covered for Covid-19? If you do, look for a plan that covers Covid-19 treatment and hospitalisation. Some insurers will offer free additional Covid-19 coverage to existing plans.
- Look at your insurer’s list of panel hospitals – it’s easier to process your insurance claim if you go to a panel hospital. You should also check that the list of panel hospitals is extensive and there are options for hospitals which are near you.
- Read and understand your claims procedure.
- Fill out your forms accurately.
- Buy your insurance policy from a licensed insurance agent or broker.
Things to look out for when picking a medical insurance policy:
- Exclusions – medical conditions not covered by your policy.
- For example, many medical and health insurance plans don’t cover Covid-19 treatment or hospitalisation.
- Limits – maximum amounts you can claim.
- Renewability of policy – can be guaranteed or non-guaranteed, depending on your medical history and type of policy.
So, remember – there are many risks in life (like eating dodgy burgers) but your medical care should not be one of them! If you’d like to learn more about getting medical insurance, do read our guide, and you can also read more details on what to look out for when buying insurance.