Yesterday my father was admitted to hospital. I arrived at the hospital just in time for the admission procedure and the mandatory “financial counseling.” I was told that I’ll need to put up a deposit of $XXXX upfront. When I told them to claim under the NTUC Enhanced Incomeshield Basic plan, the staff checked his computer and within 1 minute confirmed that NTUC Income issued the Letter of Guarantee and thus allowing the hospital to waive the required deposit. I was impressed with the fast response as I did not make any prior arrangement for the LOG.
Just as I was checking the various documents to sign, the hospital staff printed the Letter of Guarantee and showed to me. At the same time, I received a SMS from Income that my “client” requested for an LOG and it had been issued. The SMS indicated to me to check my email. I checked my email using my mobile on the spot and found the LOG PDF and an FAQ as well.
I am impressed by the efficient way Letter of Guarantee was being issued. This was in contrast with the way LOG was arranged two years ago. Although my client then was also admitted to a restructured hospital, Income took 24 hours to issue the LOG and at the end of the day I only got scolding (scolding from the parent of a sick patient and scolding from the hospital staff for being slow!) It was such a bad experience and the worst of all I was treated as if I was at fault because they thought I represented NTUC Income.
To think about it, the admission staff yesterday was very surprised that the Letter of Guarantee can be issued so fast. It appeared to me that very few people are insured with a shield plan in the first place and not to mention the insuring with a policy that has such efficient LOG issuance. Do note that LOG is not a contractual benefit of the Incomeshield policy which means Income has the right not to issue the LOG and it will not be held in breach of contract. There is also a long list of reasons in which Income will not issue LOG. Thus, my experience above may not apply in many other cases. Take for example, the ability to obtain the Letter of Guarantee from the hospital admission staff is only applicable for restructured hospital. For other hospitals, the LOG has to been requested from NTUC Income manually (i.e. takes forever). But for other hospitals like private hospital, I recommend a better way to get the deposit waived with credit limit way above the $10,000.
On a side note, I was asked a few times whether is it worth the money for the elderly to buy a private-integrated plan. I can only speak from own experience. Every month I will have a few clients being admitted to hospitals. Most elderly folks are not able to claim from their private-integrated shield plan because they bought their medical policies when they already had pre-existing conditions. These pre-existing conditions are excluded regardless whether these were known or unknown at the point of insurance purchase. In other ways, there is a very good chance that the insurance bought when one is very old is unlikely going to be claimable. I observed that most people are already uninsurable when they reach 40 years old. This means I consider those above 40 years old as “elderly.” So far, those who have bought their shield plan young were able to claim from their medical insurance.
For my father’s case, I must say I am quite “proud” to have done some basic insurance planning for him. He bought the Incomeshield Plan B on his own long time ago. In 2006, NTUC Income opened the floodgate that was never heard before in the insurance industry which was the ability to upgrade the dollar-cap plan to as-charged without underwriting. In 2006, my father was already not so healthy but this floodgate allowed the opportunity to upgrade without fear of exclusions! That is why he is now on the as-charged Basic plan. That 2006 floodgate saw 20,000 applications for upgrade causing many staff in Income to resign due to work pressure. You can read about it Overwhelming response to Enhanced Incomeshield and Delay and mistake in handling upgrading of Incomeshield.
For very strange reasons, not all Incomeshield policyholders at that time took advantage for this “free lunch.” When I reviewed clients cases, I am still seeing policyholders who bought their dollar-cap Incomeshield before 2006 and yet they did not take advantage of the free lunch despite they were not healthy anymore. Some of them said that their agents did not inform them. It was just a convenient excuse to blame their innocent agents because Income did write to every policyholders about it.
What is the lesson to learn? I always tell everyone the importance to take charge and educate yourself to financial independence. I practice what I preach by making sure my own parents medical insurance plan are done properly. What I done for them isn’t perfect as there are certain constraints but I pity those who did not even bother to do anything for their parents and their own family. Even if a floodgate of “free lunch” would to open again, these people will still fail to take hold of such free lunch and thus they can never achieve financial independence even if help is extended to them.
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