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Protect your wealth and sanity when you need it most

Today let me tell you of a little bump the wife and i had in our lives. To gloss over the details, she developed a medical condition that needed her to be hospitalised. If you’ve ever had to be hospitalised, you know what a traumatic experience it is. As much as I love GMC (Goa Medical College) they are overwhelmed with patients and don’t have beds. So the only real and viable option was to get her admitted to a private hospital.

I have always had apprehensions in visiting private hospitals. All of us have heard horror stories of patients getting ripped off. Stories of relative’s lives being made miserable for money or treatment not being given till money was deposited in the hospital. How do you protect your wealth and sanity in such times when you need it most? And how do you save yourself from the trauma and stress in such difficult moments? Well let me tell elaborate more. (if you want the short answer buy health insurance and cover your family)

The origins of this story lie over a year and a half ago when I had a medical condition diagnosed. The condition required me to undergo 2 medical procedures. My first choice like I said was GMC, but the time that’s needed to get treatment from there seemed too much. I constantly needed to take time off from work to visit the doctors there, and let’s not get started into the time it takes for investigative procedures such as x rays or CT scans. The patient load there is just too high. So, I was forced to seek remedy at a private hospital. Fortunately, just post-marriage we had signed up for the DDSSY( Deen Dayal Swasth Seva Yojana) of the Government of Goa. While it did cover some of the expenses most of the expenses were still not covered. I had quit my fancy corporate job around 8 months before that, so I was no longer covered by that health insurance either. So long story short I had to foot a 50K plus bill (over and above DDSSY). Luckily my tax refund came in right about then, which helped manage cash flows.

The whole incident made me realise that such events can happen to anyone at any time. And that it was important that I protect my family as much as possible in these critical times. When someone dear to you is sick, your judgement gets seriously clouded. You end up making a ton of decisions that you usually would not. Very often once the incident is past and you’ve been taken to the cleaners you realise all the decision points in which you made a mistake. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. That’s the time I chose to spend some money on health insurance. The difference in the whole experience when it came to my wife being admitted this time around was so profound. It was the difference between night and day. Here are a couple of things that I observed that helped preserve my sanity and wealth.

Peace of mind

During my admission the previous year I was constantly worried. I didn’t know how much the procedure would cost, or where to arrange the money from. So, I was constantly trying to battle between when to have the procedure basis my bank statement. Worried about having to ask someone else for the money or help.

With insurance the experience was completely different. I was focussed on getting the best treatment for the wife. Money was not a worry that I had. It didn’t matter how much a procedure if any would cost. I didn’t have to worry how much was really in my bank account.  So, my mind was free to focus on more important stuff. I had time to understand her diagnosis and what the line of treatment was.  

Besides the hospital treatment. Arranging food, water, clean clothes, shuttling between home and the hospital. Having someone present to stay with the patient and keeping them entertained and in good spirits. It takes a lot of effort to manage all of it. Plus, there’s the effort of keeping everyone in the family updated. Visitors you’ll have at the hospital. It takes a ton of time and energy to manage. In a time like this not having to worry about money or where you’re going to get it from is an immense blessing. The tension of how much everything costs drives you mad. So, I was really happy that I had respite from it and could focus my attention on the missus.

Once I informed the hospital that we had insurance coverage, they put me in touch with the TPA desk. They told me I was eligible for the cashless treatment facility. And other than a few documents (which I could mail them) they did not need any more documents from me.

Time to manage Cashflow

Very often hospital visits are emergencies. You have an emergency fund for that right? Well even beyond an emergency fund you never really know how much medical treatment might cost. Having a health insurance policy buys you the time to start liquidating assets if you need to. It buys you the time to unwind long term positions if you need to and find better prices for your assets. As compared to having to sell everything off in an instant at whatever price you get. It buys you the time to make more rational decisions and manage your emotions. For example, it can buy you a couple of days for you to be able to redeem some of your Mutual Fund portfolio to manage your cash flow better. It basically keeps your options open. And gives you the luxury of exercising those options in a logical and structured manner.

So what should you do?

These are the 2 most important differences that I noticed. Being in the hospital is stressful enough. Having to make money decisions in that scenario is a recipe for disaster. There are 2 key takeaways here for me.

  1. If you’re a resident of Goa and are eligible, please sign up and register for DDSSY. It’s the best bang for 200 or 300 INR you will spend for the coverage it offers.
  2. If you work for a corporate, check on their employee health plan, keep the documentation handy. Emergencies will note tell you before they happen. You won’t have the time to scramble for documentation when they do happen.
  3. Spend some money on getting you and your family a “family floater plan” even if you have insurance at work. In the current environment, you never know what the job situation might be. Any new policy has a minimum of 2 years before they start covering pre-existing diseases. So, get on the plan early and de-risk your downside.

P.s: Sometime soon ill compile an article of all the other benefits of health insurance and why I think it’s a no brainer for us to get one in India.

Until next time. Keep your chin up and put your money to work for you.

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