7 Reasons Why You Should Read the Fine Print on Emergency Health Cards

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at Dec 09 2019 10:10 AM

Emergency health cards anyone?

When shopping for holiday gifts, I try and get friends something that I would like to get as well, and this year, I came across prepaid emergency health cards. I got so excited as a number of my friends (and family members) do not work full time, or are with small companies that do not provide health insurance.

When health emergencies happen, one’s savings usually take a beating from medical expenses and for some, friends even need to pass the hat around for help settling hospital bills.

The minute I turned to Google for options, I found my social media accounts flooded with a wide range of offers for emergency health cards. Starting at P699 with hospital coverage of as much as P15,000 in emergencies, I started clicking and fell into a rabbit hole of emergency health cards.

Three days later, I have a headache to show for all my efforts. It became clear there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are many insurance companies and each one has designed a variety of products with different coverage…and wait for it… many exclusions. As with purchasing anything, the buyer must beware so he does not end up with a card in his wallet that he cannot use for a year. Here’s a checklist of 7 items to look for when getting emergency health coverage.

#1 Prepaid plan that fits your budget. 

Ideally, we all have an emergency fund that we can dip into in case of health crisis or if we lose our jobs. That emergency fund should cover between 6 to 9 months of your household expenses. But when money is tight and there are too many bills to pay, the next best thing may just be a prepaid emergency health card that fits your budget. You can start with a basic plan at P699 or get premium coverage as high as P5,150. At P699, that’s just the cost of one month of video streaming service or three cups of gourmet coffee! 

#2 Do your homework, as not all emergency health cards are the same. 

You can call around or let your fingers do the searching as most of the prepaid health insurance offers are available online, and you can pay online too. Or you can get help of consolidators like www.mariahealth.ph to find the right health plan for you by comparing products from different health providers after you complete a short questionnaire on their website. Even if you just want to get the cheapest prepaid healthcard for now, you should still buy the cheapest that gets you most bang for the buck.

#3 Make sure to cover for your health needs.

One interesting thing I discovered with prepaid health cards is that you can shop for one not just for adults, but also for kids and even seniors. There are also some that provide emergency coverage for the whole family, making it convenient to use and track. Take time to list what’s important for you. If you’re single and your employer provides health insurance, consider coverage for your elderly parents. If you’re starting your own business, all the more you need access to emergency healthcare. 

#4 Note it’s for one-time use and valid for only one year.

While shopping, I also checked the online chatter and a number of comments indicated they were disappointed to learn two things: you can only use the prepaid card once, and it is good only for one year from time of purchase. But that’s why the insurers were able to make it affordable – they had to make the odds in such a way that it can also work for them. While a number of potential buyers walked away, there were users who gave it a thumbs up. One said that her prepaid card worth P1,350 paid for her hospital stay and covered almost P40,000 in medical expenses – not a bad deal.

#5 Exclusions are the real downer here.

Let me illustrate better citing specific products. Insular Life Healthcare offers the ER Care Basic 50 at P700 and an ER Care All-In card worth P1,350. With the basic card, you get up to P50,000 worth of coverage only for emergency cases due to accidents. With all-in, they will also cover viral and bacterial illnesses.

Let’s decode their jargon as explained in their website: (1) "Emergency" means the sudden, unexpected onset of illness or injury having the potential of causing immediate disability or death or requiring the immediate alleviation of severe pain and discomfort; (2) "Accident" means a visible, external, sudden and violent event occasioned by a physical or natural cause and occurring entirely beyond the Members' control causing damage to the health of the Member; and (3) "Viral and bacterial illnesses" are diseases caused by viruses and/or bacteria including Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, Amoebiasis, Dengue Fever, Typhoid Fever, and Urinary Tract Infection.

If you read the fine print, the basic card will only pay for outpatient emergency care, laboratory and diagnostic procedures, and medicines as medically required. With all-in, they will also cover hospital stay in a semi-private room.

If you don’t think you need to be covered for viral and bacterial illnesses, you can stick to basic, but consider adding P100 more to also get potential hospital stay covered. 

Another familiar name in healthcare, Maxicare, offers My Maxicare Lite which specifically covers eight illnesses: Dengue, Malaria, Cholera, Typhoid and Paratyphoid, Gastroenteritis, Pneumonia, Leptospirosis and Chikungunya. At P1,999, in-patient care is covered up to P25,000.

They also have the Maxicare EReady and at P699, you get up to P15,000 one-time coverage on illnesses or injuries that arises from medical-related emergency conditions. Not as generous as the basic plan of Insular at P700, but this one will allow you to register twice within the same year, just in case lightning would strike twice.

#6 Paying extra for the Big Six.

The insurance companies will all dazzle you with the size of their networks – from 600 partners to as many as 1000 hospitals nationwide. But take note if they cover the big six and most will say no, or require you to pay extra. 

So who are the big six? That’s Asian Hospital, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Makati Medical Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Quezon City, St. Luke’s Medical Center-Taguig, and The Medical City. If you live in Metro Manila, chances are these are the hospitals closest to you, or your doctors hold clinics here. I admit I would pay up the extra P200 to P2000 for this benefit.

#7 Look for freebies. 

Some products are identical that what will clinch the deal are promotions and perks before I sign away on the dotted line, or share my credit card details. It never hurts to check and even see if there are online vouchers available. One company offers discounted vouchers for Grab and free WiFi use in The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

Whether you are shopping for yourself or for family and friends, the gift of health is always a good idea. Make sure to tick the right boxes from outpatient care to medical consultations to dental coverage to hospital stays to get the best health program for you and your loved ones.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.