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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Insurance selling at Mount E

There's always a time and place for everything. Sadly, Mount Elizabeth Hospital seems to have forgotten that.

I went to its Endoscopy Centre earlier this week to have my inside checked. Like most people, I was a little anxious about the outcome as I was feeling bloated and uneasy.

As I sat at the registration desk signing all the necessary forms, my mind was imagining all sorts of things that could happen to me. It was unlike the situation five years ago when I had my first colonoscopy. Then, it was routine as I was doing it as a matter of precaution.

This time, however, I was recommended by my doctor to have the colon and gastrointestinal endoscopy done as part of his investigation into the reason for my upset tummy.

But what added to my anxiety and worry was when the registration clerk handed me a form and asked whether I would like to take up insurance to protect against any complication that might arise.

She said the insurance would be activated only for the next 24 hours after the endoscopy procedure and that I could claim up to $500,000.

I was puzzled as to why the hospital would be doing such a thing. One reason has to be the addingof value to its business. As a listed company, Parkway Holdings -- the owner of the hospital -- needs to generate as much revenue as it could. And I really do not have a problem with that.

But this question has to be asked: Why does it need to do the selling at that point in time when the patient is about to go for his procedure/operation and is likely to be at his most vulnerable state of mind? (I understand that other centres in the hospital are also doing the same thing.)

After mulling over in my mind the pros and cons of signing up, I decided to ask the clerk a few questions but she couldn't provide any satisfactory answers.

However, being the kiasu Singaporean and a little muddled at that moment, I told myself "Maybe I should sign up. After all, it is only $88 which I can afford.''

And so I did. Fortunately, when I handed over the form, duly signed, the clerk's colleague leaned over and told her that the premium could not be $88 because of my age. Obviously, I was of higher risk and the premium had to be $200 plus.

That straightaway shook me up and brought me back to my senses. Why was I buying something that did not provide sufficient details about coverage and was being sold at such a high premium?

Further, the clerk was obviously not qualified to sell the product. For instance, she knew that I had insurance coverage for medical and hospitalisation but she did not explain whether the policy she was selling would duplicate what I had.

I am not sure whether this selling of insurance at the hospital has been cleared by the MAS or the Health Ministry. If not, I hope they will do something about it.

Apart from this inappropriate selling of insurance, I am happy to report that I found the hospital's other services above par.

It really should stick to its core business --- taking care of patients' health.

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