Sunday, December 5, 2010

New Sunday Times: Health's high price

Health's high price

SAVING up for a rainy day is always sound advice but one we seldom pay heed to until we find ourselves in dire financial straits.
For a large number of Malaysians, getting good healthcare seems to come with a hefty price tag.

So hefty that some 26 per cent of 50,361 people who sought the services of the Credit Management and Debt Counselling Agency (AKPK) did so because of their inability to service their medical debts.

And in almost all the cases, the bills were incurred for the treatment of their loved ones in private hospitals.

While the figure may not seem alarming, it is cause enough for worry as it reflects how financially ill-prepared we are when it comes to ensuring that our healthcare needs are met, especially in our golden years.

Rightly or wrongly, because of a long distrust of public healthcare services, most of us equate good healthcare with private hospitals where the cost of treatment is much higher and often beyond the average income earner's budget.

With the cost of healthcare increasing by an average of between eight and 10 per cent each year, many of us may not be able to afford medical treatment when we need it the most. And without sufficient funds, we may just find ourselves saddled with hefty bills and inevitably caught in the credit card debt trap.

In the absence of any government-initiated health financing scheme, it would do well for us to prioritise our needs and give due consideration to our health.

Our sedentary lifestyle and uncontrolled dietary habits are putting more of us at risk of suffering chronic lifestyle-related diseases such as stroke, heart ailments, diabetes and kidney failure. Children as young as 7 are suffering from diabetes these days.

And going by statistics, almost half the population will suffer some form of critical illness by the time they turn 50, making them ineligible for any form of medical insurance protection!

While not all of us will be lucky enough to have the financial means to pay for our healthcare bills in our twilight years, we could get a head start by investing in some form of medical protection while still young and in good health. More so, if we are in the high-risk group owing to a family history of chronic illnesses.

Better yet, let's start taking good care of ourselves from now, for "he who has health has hope and he who has hope has everything".

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