In a world that constantly changes, one thing that can be taken as a guarantee is the rise in cost of living. The rise in costs may not be in proportion to the rise in income and often it is the lack of this increase in disposable income that comes back to pinch us financially.
With sedentary lifestyles, hunched in front of a computer for long hours, deteriorating health is something that is plaguing the world in general. And to add to this troubling trend is the rise in medical costs. Often brought about by lack of insurance policies, lack of financial management and in some cases pure bad luck, medical costs can quickly snowball into a huge debt that can run anyone into personal bankruptcy. But, this doesn’t mean the end of your financial life when you or a loved one is diagnosed with an illness. Being prepared is half the battle won.
Tips to Reduce Medical Debt:
Use cards that offer hospital discounts:
Medical emergencies seldom come announced and during such times it is beneficial to use a card when applicable rather than dip into savings. Often credit cards tie up with service providers to offer exclusive benefits. Many of these are either with football clubs or entertainment establishments but every now and then credit card issuers tie up with more practical establishments such as the Maybank American Express credit card that offer credit cardholders discounts of up to 10% on select hospital charges across Pantai Hospitals in Malaysia.
Use cards that offer discounts on insurance policies:
There are a few cards on the market that help negate the cost of high insurance premiums by tying up with insurance providers and offering discounts on insurance policies to cardholders. The OCBC Great Eastern credit cards especially the Platinum and Titanium line cards offer rebates on Premiums on Great Eastern insurance policies. These rebates can range from 2% to 3% and can amount to a savings of RM 450 every year. Such cards definitely help bring down medical expenses by offering insurance policies at cheaper rates.
Complimentary travel and medical coverage:
Now almost a standard feature in most credit cards, they offer complimentary travel and medical insurance with high limits of cover. The catch to this is that most cards require the travel expense such as air fare be charged wholly to the card. Making full payments for such expenses is key to taking full advantage of such benefits else the added interest can quickly offset the benefit of any complimentary travel medical and accident cover.
Check for errors in billing:
An often overlooked aspect, people tend to blindly pay for what is printed on the bill without checking it. Many a times even when they do check it they are left confused as many items are coded and not mentioned plainly. When a medical provider bills a generic drug as a specific branded one which may cost more, it goes unnoticed by the cardholder and can definitely add to the burden. One should always ask for an itemized bill so that they are clear as to what they are paying for.
Request for discounts:
One may often think twice about asking for a discount but will be surprised with the outcomes. Many hospitals and doctor offices will offer discounts on whatever they can. Quite a few of the doctor offices and hospitals are low in cash flow as they deal with payments either through insurance claims or through credit card payments or cheque payments. If you can afford a particular expense in cash, request for a cash discount.
Check for alternate payment plans:
When faced with a high medical bill, one can always ask the hospital for alternate payment plans. Hospitals do provide a certain amount of leeway and offer payment plans that can ease the blow and spread out the payment over a couple of months. But, they do not offer much flexibility when it comes to payment tenures. When faced with rigid tenures that cost high monthly instalments, you can charge it to the card. This may come at higher rates of interest but minimum monthly payments will be much smaller and more manageable.
Keep a copy of your tests and medical records:
Lab results and medical records when kept handy can makes the doctor’s job easier in diagnosing any illness and removes the guess work involved which translates to lesser tests required which in turn can help save you money in the long run.
The above tips make for a great start in the right direction. Medical expenses are unavoidable and increase with age. Having a comprehensive medical insurance policy is a must. One should plan wisely and have an emergency fund equivalent to three to six months’ worth of salary. When you fall ill and are unable to work, this fund can be the difference between riding out a rough patch and facing certain bankruptcy.