Let’s say you get into an accident and end up getting rushed to the hospital for surgery. After the initial relief that everything’s gone well and that all four of your limbs are still attached and functioning, at some point one of these two thoughts will surely cross your mind: “Phew, thank goodness I have that Integrated Shield Plan,” or “Oh damn, it’s cheaper to die.”
We’ve been harping for a long time on why getting a health insurance policy that ties in with MediShield Life is the smart thing to do. Such a plan can really ease your financial burden should you end up in the hospital.
So much so that insurance companies are now trying to find ways and means to get Singaporeans to reduce their claim amounts. They’re afraid people will make frivolous claims, book themselves into the most expensive hospital around and proceed to ask for unnecessary services. These will in turn raise premiums for everyone else.
While a recent report by the Health Insurance Task Force threw up suggestions such as introducing medical fee guidelines and introducing co-payment features, one thing they neglected was the underdeveloped state of primary care in Singapore.
People can easily seek treatment in emergencies or for serious problems, but the healthcare system has done poorly at monitoring people’s health and catching preventable conditions early. That’s why we have the second most diabetic population in the world. This results in more and higher claims, and higher premiums.
Here are three suggestions that might lower insurance claims, as well as promote a healthier society.
1. Allow claims for selected health screenings
To sign up for most Integrated Shield Plans, all you have to do is to fill out a questionnaire and voilà, you’re covered.
You could happily hum along for years on this policy before discovering one day that, bam, you’ve got diabetes or cancer or some other terrible condition that could have been detected earlier.
Insurance companies can reduce the incidences of their clients belatedly discovering serious health problems by covering screening for certain conditions, such as breast cancer.
In the US, it is mandatory for most plans to cover certain types of screening. Conversely, in Singapore, you would probably have to purchase a separate health screening insurance package to get covered in this area.
Insurance companies unwilling to allow unlimited claims for screening might want to offer clients the chance to make such claims after a certain number of years on a particular plan, or when they reach a certain age.
2. Have tie-ups with exercise or health-related services to enable clients to maintain their health
There is no doubt that a huge contributor to Singapore’s health woes is our unhealthy lifestyles. We spend too much time sitting on our butts in front of our computers, people aren’t getting enough exercise or sleep, and our over-reliance on hawker food and poor cooking skills are cause for concern.
Of course, nobody can force Singaporeans to live more healthily. But insurance companies can try to improve the overall health of their clientele by having tie-ups with a range of exercise or health-related services in order to offer their clients discounted rates.
For instance, gym memberships, yoga classes, cooking classes and sleep therapy could be offered at a discounted rate to certain insurers’ clients.
That said, a half-hearted attempt would probably not bear much fruit. But if we could get to the point where a significant proportion of insurance clients take into consideration the exercise and lifestyle perks offered by insurers when picking their plans, that would signal a sea-change in the passive attitude many Singaporeans take towards maintaining their health.
3. Reward customers for not making claims
Anyone who’s ever purchased motor insurance in Singapore knows that each year you don’t make a claim, you are entitled to a no-claim discount, which shaves a significant percentage off your insurance premium for the next year.
Medical insurers can put in place a similar system to reward clients for not making claims. While this doesn’t happen often, there are cases where Singaporeans ask to be hospitalised when they are feeling sick even if it’s not serious because they know they can make claims.
Obviously, no-claim rewards for medical insurance can’t be as generous as those for motor insurance. But insurers can still reward customers in small ways, such as by issuing vouchers or giving them cash rebates on their premiums.
The main objective is to make Singaporeans think twice about immediately asking to be hospitalised just so they can make a claim and enjoy a free staycation at the same time.
How can Singaporeans be encouraged to take responsibility for their own health? Share your suggestions in the comments!