The saying “Trouble doesn’t come knocking” is apt when you think about all the times you have fallen sick unexpectedly and had to reach into your hard-earned savings to pay the bill. Medical expenses are a nightmare and without solid health insurance, could drive people into debt. In fact, over 55 million Indians went into debt, in a single year, due to exorbitant medical bill fees according to a study by the Public Health Foundation Of India. Falling ill is inevitable, but are there any ways where paying medical bills wouldn't burn a big hole in your pocket?
Invest in the golden combination of a Mediclaim + Health Insurance
Before going into the details, lets clear the basics first. A Health Insurance is a comprehensive policy which, depending on the premium you pay, will cover costs that you may incur pre and post hospitalisation. It also usually covers other additional expenses like testing, diagnostics and sometimes even medication in less severe cases. A Mediclaim generally has a ‘cap’ or a limit on the amount that it would cover your medicinal expenses but the advantage is that it is generally offered by certain companies as an employee benefit.
With the combined benefits of a Mediclaim as well as a Health Insurance, your medical expenses are more likely to be covered. Whether it is just a trip to the dentist or a more serious operation. However, what happens when someone is not insured and does not have any such policy?
A low-interest loan can be used to cover emergency medical expenses
Being covered by insurance should not be a luxury, but in India it is. A shocking percentage of only 15% of Indians are known to be under a healthcare cover, whether it is a policy, Mediclaim or community insurance. In such cases, the common man is left without any security and has to bear the burden of paying emergency medical bills from his own pocket. However, if one finds themselves short on funds to foot the bill, a low-interest personal loan could be the answer. While taking such loans, the bank decides if you would qualify for a personal loan and at what interest rate by looking at your credit score and financial history. It should be kept in mind that while these loans may have a low-interest rate, plans should be made on how one must pay the quarterly or monthly fees. While these are some ways in which you can pay your bill, choosing to buy medicines online could also be another way in which you could reduce your medicinal expense.
Choose to buy medicines online instead of the pharmacy
Private pharmacies have always been known to charge a bit extra and this substantially increases the burden during an unexpected medical expense. Various new online platforms have come into the market which not only offers them at reduced prices but also gives frequent discounts, a senior citizen concession as well as free doorstep delivery. Some of these sites are Amazon, PharmEasy, Netmeds and MedLife.
While these are some ways that could help reduce the cost of the medical bill, what can be done in a scenario where someone cannot afford to pay the bill at all?
Encash your investments, but only when there is no other option
Financial Experts normally advice against breaking long term investments for one-time medical bills, but if there is no other option, one must choose an investment where the least loss would occur. In simple words, long term investments like Fixed Deposits or Mutual Funds have a penalty charge if you access them before the due date, so if you absolutely have to break into them, choose the one with the least penalty charge.
This also makes one wonder that while these are some ways you can personally try footing your medical bill in an emergency, is there any way that the government could help someone who finds themselves in such a situation?
India’s healthcare is not equipped to take care of all it’s citizens when they really need it
While India provides basic insurance plans, it is miles away from supporting all its citizens during an emergency medical emergency. While the USA and other countries provide benefits of and employer-backed savings account or a health savings account, India barely offers the bare minimum. In fact, the healthcare scenario of India is so miserable that a shocking 62% of Indian’s end up paying for their medical expenses from their own pocket, leading to further financial strains on the already branded middle-class man. These strains are so extensive that the burden of medical expenses alone has pushed over 6 crore Indians every year to the brink of poverty. So much for ‘Acche Din’.
While a country should provide adequate healthcare benefits for its citizens, it is our duty also to look out for our future selves. Having a ‘nest egg’ where you save up money for any emergency crisis, is a beneficial investment for the security of your own future. A part of being an adult is being ready for inevitable circumstances and falling ill is one of them. We will definitely need a trip to the doctor or a future medical procedure, so its best to be prepared for whenever that is. “Having time to prepare for a procedure gives you the opportunity to be strategic about how you’ll cover the expense” Lauren Anatasio, a financial planner, tells Mic. So start saving that salary instead of splurging it and your future self may just thank you!