Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Too costly to be sick

An old adage goes, 'health is wealth.' Too often though, health is neglected especially when you're (relatively) young and then are no pains anywhere in your body. 
Photo credit: Grabbed from Pinterest
Recently, I got married. My hubby and I would really have enjoyed our weeklong trip to Taipei had I not gotten sick. Yes, I got sick a few days before our scheduled flight. The sad news is, even if I get well before the flight, I am not permitted to fly yet... for the next two months.

However, to me it's just a small thing. What really bugged me was the reason why I got confined in the hospital. 

It started with a pain in the ear commonly experienced by travelers who have colds. It's the kind that you just sort of pop so the pressure gets off your ears. I've had experiences of this kind in the past. Normally, it'll just go away. But not this one. 

Twice, I was brought to the Emergency Room (ER) because the pain and fever are really intolerable despite 2 tablets of advil and a paracetamol. 

On the second trip to the ER, the doctor asked if I want to be confined already. He has noticed that there is redness and swelling inside my middle ear. They refer to it as barotrauma. But since I've been having on and off fever, it might be best to be admitted so I said yes. It's that painful. 

That was in the wee hours of Saturday. Come Sunday night, my left ear started flushing out a yellowish fluid. This after I was told that the barotrauma has developed into otitis media or ear infection. 

The first 2 days in the hospital, I was on a continuous pain reliever drip. Even then, there were moments that the pain gets unbearable. And the fever just rages on. 

It has been far too long that I have not been confined. Not that I want to. It's just that I don't know anything about being hospitalized. So, I was pleasantly surprised that the HMO (Intellicare) representative showed up in my room to give me a short orientation on my coverage, etc. I was actually spacing out because I couldn't hear a thing. My ear infection rendered me temporarily deaf.When she finished her spiel, she presented me with an Intellibear. It tickled me. Hihihi. 

Every single day thereafter, for the next seven days, the Intellicare Rep would drop by room to ask how am I and to give me a running summary of my hospital bill. 

Looking at the bill, I and anyone would wish they were staying in a five-star hotel or resort for the price am paying at the hospital. That expensive. 

Every single item used whether it's just a cotton swab or a dispensing cup is to be paid for. Or billed to the patient's account. 

But when you're sick you don't think too much of the bill. You want to focus on getting better. By the fourth day, my right ear is still in a bad state. The EENT want to do ear surgery (myringotomy). Prior to the surgery, all sorts of medical professional came to my room to discuss the risks and the procedure. I think they were trying to manage my emotions. But then the cardiologist almost gave me a heart attack. Well, kinda. He talked about the risks involved in a surgery. 

He said that since I am still relatively young and relatively healthy, the risk of any cardiac complications is low. That conversation sent me desperately praying that I don't have to go through the surgery the next day. I was so very nervous and afraid. 

I sent a text blast to all my friends to pray for me. I was that scared. But I was torn between being afraid and being cured of my infection. 

On the day of the surgery, I remember nothing except that I was sedated, the anaesthesiologist told me to just sleep and I woke up to this warm and toasty bed. It was successful and I thank God for it. 

After getting restless and still not well for five days already, I started asking the doctor if I can just continue my medication outside of the hospital. Inside the hospital though the antibiotics were given intravenouosly but in spite that the recovery process is slow. Add to that is my daily bouts with fever. 

The doctors are wondering what hinders me from being healed. Is it my blood sugar? Ok, fast overnight to check if I am diabetic. My result came out negative. Next they check if I have any thyroid problem. I went to have an ultrasound done. They saw four nodules. Next day, I was scheduled for a biopsy. When the result came out, I am just so glad that the pain and discomfort were nothing because it says that my nodes are benign. 

Seven days later, I finally got a clearance from my doctor to discharge. When the final bill was presented, I almost fell off the bed. My bill is almost P200,000 for a seven day confinement. And my health coverage is only 75% of that. Stressful.

Fortunately, I was able to reach our HR so I can discuss my situation. After a few hours, my excess bill was covered by my HMO. But I was informed that the excess amount would still be charged to me. The consolation is that I can get out of the hospital without an out-of-pocket expense. 

What did I learn from this experience: 
  1. Update your HMO coverage. If your company does not provide, get one for yourself and family. Getting sick is really expensive. The premium for a health card comes out as peanuts compared to the hospitalization cost. 
  2. Be informed. Ask your HR partner to discuss with you the existing coverage. What are the allowed charges, room allowance, maximum benefit and all that. 
  3. Ensure that your HR is updated on your condition at the hospital. 
  4. Ensure that you have all the PhilHealth requirements. At the end of the day, it's not much when you look at the amount this agency will shoulder. But in the greater scheme of things, it's already something that can be deducted from your total bill. 
  5. Subtly inform your hospital and doctors that you're only relying on your HMO coverage. You won't have the capacity to pay for the excess bill. This way, they'll be more prudent in giving procedures and or medication. 
  6. Health care in the Philippines is very expensive. It pays to prevent any sickness because the cost breaks a bank. In other words, it would cost you an arm and a limb.
Our desire and prayer should be to be away from sickness, to be healthy. However, when it becomes inevitable, it pays to be prepared psychologically, emotionally and financially.
So, there our hospital room became our honeymoon suite for a week where I slept on a bed that can be adjusted several ways and where my hubby slept in a cot far too small for his height. 

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