It’s better to be sick and rich than sick and poor, especially in Singapore. With the very real possibility of having to use all my retirement money on healthcare someday, each time I fall sick I panic and try to find the cheapest possible way to cure myself. This has led to some bizarre experiments involving lots of garlic.
While I wouldn’t really recommend you try to diagnose all your health issues on webmd.com or concoct your own medicines with the internet as your guide, you are probably spending more on healthcare than you have to. Here are four ways regular people in Singapore can save on their healthcare costs.
Don’t blindly buy the medicine your doctor prescribes
Many people think of doctors as godlike entities whose prescriptions must be followed at all costs (unless the only reason you’re in the doctor’s office is because you woke up late for work, of course).
The fact is that for common ailments like the flu or rashes, medicines you are prescribed such as paracetamol, antihistamines and lozenges can be bought at Guardian Pharmacy—and are usually cheaper than what you would pay for at a private clinic.
If the main reason you’re going to the clinic is that you feel a little under the weather and need a day off work, you might want to politely ask the doctor if there are any over the counter drugs at a pharmacy that might be able to do the job. It makes no sense to pay $8 for a pack of lozenges when you can get Fisherman’s Friend for $1.60.
Always read your health insurance policies and have an insurance company contact in your phone
While most full-time employees have some sort of health insurance policy, nobody ever reads them. I have to admit that the first time I ever bothered to read own my private health insurance policy was years after I actually signed up for it.
If you haven’t already done so (and I bet you haven’t), read all the policies you’re currently covered under. When you took out the insurance policy, your agent would have given you a run down of the coverage you’d be receiving.
An agent’s summary of the areas of coverage does not give you an accurate picture of the exclusions under which you are not allowed to make a claim. Most of the agents I’ve met try to give you the impression you can make a claim for anything under the sun when it’s simply not the case.
There is nothing more bone chilling than facing a medical crisis and then realising that your situation falls under one of your policy’s exclusions.
Other than being familiar with your insurance policies, it’s a good idea to put your insurance agent on speed dial. If you’re facing a medical emergency, you want to tell your healthcare provider you’re planning to make an insurance claim and then get in touch with the agent immediately to ensure you don’t do anything that will jeopardise your ability to make a claim.
For instance, many insurance policies will only allow you to make a claim if you are warded in a hospital for at least one night, so declining a hospital stay would be a big mistake, even if it’s not exactly a night at the Ritz.
Max out your company’s healthcare benefits
While your boss might have a sadistic streak, he does not want you to die of an illness. Other than health insurance, your company might offer medical benefits such as reimbursement for medical or dental expenses and the use of a company doctor or dentist.
If you don’t know exactly what the medical benefits you’re offered are, speak to the HR manager at your company. For instance, a few years back I broke a tooth, and was relieved to find that I could claim the $100+ it cost to get it inspected and filled.
More importantly, if you know what medical benefits you get, you’re less likely to waste them. For instance, if your company gives you an annual medical allowance, then make sure you max it out. Even if you don’t fall sick the entire year, use the money to go for medical or dental checkups.
Take advantage of free checkups and subsidies
If you’re broke, it can be tempting to spend as little as possible on healthcare.
But guess what, you can actually go for very cheap medical checkups and health screenings if you are poor enough. If your monthly household income is $1,800 and below, you qualify for the Community Health Assist programme and get a subsidy of up to $18.50 for two consultations per year. Over 50s also get free cancer health screenings until the end of the year.
In addition, Pioneer Generation folks get fully subsidised screening tests and can make claims of up to $29.50 for follow-ups relating to their screenings up to twice a year. If your family members fall under this category, make sure they take full advantage of these benefits.
How do you try to save money on healthcare? Tell us in the comments!