Can you afford medical emergencies?


Posted at Jul 28 2014 01:25 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2014 11:01 PM

MANILA, Philippines - It's a scenario everyone dreads, but is repeated several times a day in emergency rooms and medical centers around the Philippines – someone has a medical condition, needs immediate intervention, and his or her loved ones do not have the funds to cover the necessary procedures and medications.

Another is when a loved one needs a procedure that is way beyond the financial capacity of the family — a bypass surgery that could easily cost P1 million, for example, is not affordable to a minimum wage worker. Even a 3-day confinement for dengue could run into tens of thousands, throwing a typical family’s cash flow off kilter. Yet each day, diagnoses of dreaded diseases are made and hundreds face the same concern.

Emergency situations call for quick decisions, which is why it is very important for you to think about eventualities such as this which may come your way.

When everything is well, make a plan to prepare you and your loved ones for any medical-related concern, with special focus on the financial and administrative aspects.

Here are matters to think about:

Health coverage.

Philhealth coverage is mandatory for all employed Filipinos. It is likewise available to self-employed Filipinos. If you are covered, make sure you know your Philhealth number and that it is updated. Also ensure that your loved ones know where to find your Philhealth number in case you are unable to find it yourself.

On top of this, you may also have medical insurance. Make sure you know what this covers and discuss this with your family. This includes which medical centers accept your health coverage. There is nothing more wasteful than having medical insurance turned down because you went to an unaccredited hospital or doctor or did not follow the right procedure for your medical needs.

Availment procedures.

Time is always of the essence during medical emergencies, so find out in advance the procedures for availing of your health coverage – usually, this is coursed through the Human Resources or Personnel department of your office, through customer care hotlines or websites of medical insurance firms, or through the Philhealth offices in hospitals around the country. This way, you already know what to do and where to go, which should help lessen your sense of panic in an emergency situation.

Emergency cash sources.

This is the time to dig into your emergency cash sources. If you have funds that you have set aside for this purpose parked in an investment vehicle or deposit instrument , make sure that you know what encashment would entail – the paperwork, timing, penalties, contact persons, etc. Also let a loved one know about the existence of this fund. Another emergency fund source are your credit cards. You may want to know their cash advance procedures and fees, or better yet, you may want to find out if these cards are accepted in the medical centers of your choice. If you have no savings, you may wish to think about slowly starting out an emergency fund now.

Other funding alternatives.

In your mind, you may wish to pre-identify your alternative funding alternatives in the event that your emergency cash source runs out. What can you dispose off – your shares of stock? A property? Jewelry? Hopefully, you won’t get to this, but just in case you do, it’s good to have a game plan.

If you find yourself in this situation and your cash situation is precarious, here are some points to remember:

Be open with your doctor about your financial situation.

Doctors will often give you a laundry list of procedures and tests to go through, as well as medicines to buy. However, if you express your financial concerns, they can help point you to lower-cost options. For instance, they can tell you which hospital may offer a given service for a lower cost, or where you can get more affordable medications. They can even tell you where you can get financial assistance.

Check out social services.

Many hospitals offer some support through their social services desks. Some may even offer some free medication or discounts.

Check out government or teaching hospitals.

Often, these hospitals offer a wide range of services at a much lower cost. There are some local governments that offer assorted medical services at selected hospitals for their residents. Know ahead of time if you qualify for these.

Know your discounts and privileges.

You may be entitled to discounts. For instance, patients aged 60 years and above can get a senior citizen’s discount for medical procedures and medications. All these count for a lot.

Ask about your alternatives.

Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor about alternatives to the procedure he recommends. If you have time, seek out a second opinion so that you can come up with a sound decision not only on the treatment plan for your loved one, but also on its financial aspects.

Health has been said to be one’s true wealth, so make sure to take care of your own.

Grow Your Money is an editorial partnership between and Citi Philippines to promote financial education and provide helpful information to Filipinos on how to better manage their personal finances.

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