Cheaper to Die Than Get Sick in Singapore? Here are Some Ways to Ease the Burden
Other than the odd visit to the GP to get an MC excusing you from work, there are times when you just have to visit a doctor in order to keep yourself alive. Unfortunately, Singapore is one of those countries where you could potentially be bankrupted by medical costs. Knowing that as you get older your spending on healthcare will increase, it’s in your best interests to maintain your health now and also try to minimise your spending on healthcare without actually compromising your health. Here are some ways this can be done.
1. Visit free clinics
I have friends who run to the doctor at the drop of a hat. They get a small rash or feel a headache coming on and immediately think they’re going to die. Unfortunately, visits to the doctor’s office cost money. While we don’t recommend keeping your doctor’s number on speed dial unless you actually have a serious or chronic medical condition, there are times when visiting the doctor is a good idea.
Many Singaporeans swear by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and there are several free TCM clinics that offer free consultations and/or medication. Here are a few:
- Sian Chay Medical Institution at Geylang, Hougang and Punggol South.
- Tzu Chi Free Clinic offers free TCM services to the general public, as well as free medical and dental services to those with a household income of less than $2,000 (for dental) and $1,500 (for medical).
- Singapore Thong Chai Medical Institution provides free consultation and medicines at its clinics at Ang Mo Kio and Sengkang. Acupuncture is also available.
2. Come up with a plan to maintain your health
Look at the people around you and you’ll realise that the average Singaporean isn’t exactly all that health-conscious. From chowing down on hawker food every day to leading sedentary lives mostly spent at a desk in an office, the average Singaporean is setting himself up for a whole host of health problems including decreased mobility later on in life.
It’s not enough just to make a vague promise to start eating more healthily and exercising regularly, because I promise you that things are going to get in the way, whether they be long working hours, social engagements, just poor time management or addictive drama serials. You may not feel much of a difference now, but give yourself 10 years of being sedentary and you’ll find your mobility shockingly reduced.
If you’re the sort of person who has zero self-discipline, signing up for scheduled classes or joining a group with a social element can be very helpful. For instance, you might decide to take MMA classes twice a week.
Once you start getting fitter, you tend to also start eating more healthily in the interests of improving your physical performance at whatever sport or exercise you’ve gotten into. Try it and let us know how it goes.
3. Get a good medical insurance plan
No matter how good you think your health is now or how free from genetic defects your DNA might be, you absolutely need a private medical insurance plan in Singapore. Medishield is woefully inadequate and Medisave does not cover many services you might need.
Even if your company provides medical insurance, take the policy to a trusted insurance advisor and have them examine it to see if you can skip out on getting certain types of coverage. Some company medical insurance policies aren’t that comprehensive, and you’ll also have to contend with what will happen if you quit or get fired.
4. Find out when’s the best time to visit a polyclinic
Now, none of us can argue with the fact that polyclinics are way cheaper than private GPs, with a consultation costing only $12+. However, the fact remains that many people prefer to pay 3-5 times more to see a private GP, even if the only reason they’re going is to get an MC to excuse them from work. That’s because queuing up at a polyclinic can literally take hours, by which time you would probably have died from your flu or whatever other weird thing you are sick with.
Here are some tips for minimising the wait at polyclinics:
- Use the online Queue Watch (SingHealth) and See Me In Line (NHG) services on the polyclinics’ website to see how many people are currently queuing. You will notice that certain clinics tend to be less busy than others. For example, Jurong Polyclinic tends to be busier than Bukit Batok Polyclinic.
- If you can, make an appointment either on the phone or online, then you can bypass the queues when you arrive.
- Monday tends to be the busiest day and the clinic gets less busy as the week progresses, with Fridays the least busy days.
- Mornings are almost always less busy than afternoons. Hence, if you need to take MC, head to the polyclinic in the afternoon instead of the morning.
- If you are seriously ill, speak with a staff member when you’ve received your queue number and they might bump you up to the front of the queue.
5. Bargain down the price of your medical bills
Many people don’t even know that it’s possible to ask for a discount on their medical bills. While that doesn’t mean you should be begging the GP at the polyclinic to knock $2 off your $12 bill, if you’ve found yourself in the hospital and then nearly had a second heart attack upon seeing the total figure you should definitely unleash your inner auntie.
If you think you have a reputation to maintain and all that, don’t worry, hospitals are used to being bargained with. In fact, when you make an insurance claim your insurer is also going to haggle with them. So don’t be too embarrassed to ask.
How do you keep your healthcare costs in check? Let us know in the comments!