The cost of living in Malaysia continues to rise, along with all medical-related expenditures. That of course includes the price of medication, private clinic and hospital consultation fees, insurance premiums and even health supplements.
Of course, your health is not something that you’d ever want to skimp on, but there are ways for you to save hundreds – maybe even thousands – of ringgit without putting your health and well-being at risk. Use these fool-proof tips and start trimming the excess off your medical bills.
1. Get comprehensive medical insurance
There are still Malaysians who overlook the importance of having medical insurance and prefer to depend on their employee medical benefits. Not all employees' medical benefits insurance is comprehensive enough to cover major illnesses or even permanent disability, as most employers only offer clinical benefits with set limitations.
You’ll feel the pinch of the medical and hospitalisation costs when you have to fork out your own cash to supplement the costs that aren’t covered under your employee medical benefits. Getting the most basic personal medical insurance coverage isn’t the solution either.
It’s really not worth your life to compromise on your health. You never know when you’ll need extensive insurance coverage to pay for your chemotherapy sessions.
2. Understand your insurance policy
Getting comprehensive medical insurance is only the first step, but you need to understand and be in the know of what your medical policy covers to fully utilise it. Find out the coverage limit, ward entitlement, clinical entitlement (outpatient or inpatient), emergency room visits, post-treatment benefit and so on. This is to save yourself from spending extra money on the areas where you are actually covered for.
3. Buy health check-ups online
As the saying goes, ‘prevention is better than cure. It’s advisable for you to go for regular health check-ups, but as they can be quite pricey, many are discouraged by the thought of spending more money on their health.
It doesn’t help that insurance companies rarely offer free health check-ups in their policies either unless the check-ups are a part of ongoing medical treatment. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t economise on health check-ups.
4. Minimise your visits to the doctor
You wouldn’t want to waste over RM60 to see the doctor just to confirm that you’re having the old flu-and-fever would you? You’ll probably end up going home with some Paracetamol and flu tablets, both of which you can easily get from any pharmacies for less than RM10.
Try to reduce your trips to the doctor and get medication over the counter instead. Your local pharmacist will be happy to help, and you get to save on consultation fees.
Herbal medication is also a cheaper alternative.
5. Make use of public medical facilities
Government-subsidised medical facilities offer services and medication at much lower prices than private ones. Their services may not be as fast as the latter due to a shortage of staff, but our public healthcare has been known to be one of the best in the world and was ranked as the third best healthcare in the world in 2014.
Sure, they have been some complaints circulating over the difference in customer service between public medical facilities and private ones, but that is just normal considering the size of the demand that the public medical facilities have to cater to on a daily basis. Be that as it may, the wait is worth putting up with, especially if it saves you hundreds of ringgit.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
More often than not, private medical facilities will recommend a long list of tests, diagnoses and prescribed medication – don’t be afraid to ask your doctor why the tests or medication are really needed. Each test and diagnosis earns them a huge chunk of profit, so you’ll want to trim the unnecessary ones to save on cash – or insurance coverage.
Ask instead if the tests can be postponed until any changes are detected in your symptoms. If you feel that your medication is too expensive, request your doctor to suggest similar over-the-counter alternatives.
7. Compare prices
Not all medication is sold at a controlled price, therefore it’s wiser for you to shop around and compare the best deals for the ones that you need. Pharmacies like AA Pharmacy, Watson, Guardian and Vitacare constantly offer deals and discounts for general over-the-counter medical supplies, so take some time to compare their prices and ultimately, choose the ones with the best value for money.
It’s also a good idea to visit the in-house pharmacies in hypermarkets such as Tesco. They’re known to sell general medical supplies at bargain prices, although the products sold there may not be as varied as the commercial pharmacies.
Lead a healthy lifestyle to reduce the chances of sickness.
8. Get a price estimate
Few people in Malaysia are aware of this, but you can actually get a price estimate for your treatments or procedure before you go through with it. If your condition isn’t immediately life threatening, compare prices from several medical facilities before you choose one.
Ask for a repayment plan if the estimated cost is too large, and try to get discounts and ways to reduce the cost where ever possible by switching to generic medication or cutting down on the number of tests and diagnosis procedures. At the end of the day, it's your health and you need to know what you're paying for is going to be worth it.
9. Ask if you can get a discount for cash payments
If you have some savings set aside and you want to save your medical insurance coverage for future use, ask the reception or the doctor at the hospital if you can get discounts for cash payments before you schedule your treatments or procedures.
Private clinics and hospitals usually prefer cash payment over insurance claims and credit card transaction fees, so most of them would be open to the idea of giving you discounts to encourage cash payments in full.
10. Crosscheck for any billing errors
Even the tiniest mistake could mean the difference between the cheaper CT scan and the more expensive MRI scan in your medical bills, so be vigilant when checking your bills before leaving the hospital. Remember to ALWAYS ask for itemised bills so that you can clearly see what you’re being charged for – also it makes it easier for you to spot any errors in your bills.
The same applies to the statements sent by your insurance company (in the case of co-pay bills), this is when your in-depth knowledge about your policy coverage comes in handy. Even the best of us make mistakes at times, so be sure that all the costs that are supposed to be covered by your insurance policy aren’t taken out from your own pocket.
You should also keep all your medical bills and original receipts for income tax relief purposes.
11. Keep copies of your test results and medical record
These can really come in handy – and save you from paying for the same tests twice. Most test results last for at least a few years - unless drastic changes are seen in your symptoms. Having your medical record at hand also makes things easier for your doctor to treat you immediately – or advise you on the available options that are best suited to your medical condition.
12. Reduce post-treatment care costs
This applies to medical conditions that require longer recovery time, such as broken bones, injuries and surgeries. If you are recommended to go on a month-long physiotherapy program at the hospital, ask to shorten the number of treatments needed and ask for guidance and advice for home-based post-treatment cares.
Your doctors and physicians will understand your financial situation if you are honest with them, and you may even get to ask for discounts for the needed treatments.
Above all, remember to practice preventive care – eat healthy and balanced food, exercise regularly and keep up a healthy lifestyle so that you can enjoy good health and life alongside your family and friends.
You could also consider getting a personal loan to help finance your medical costs if the hospital bill is too high and your insurance policy does not provide 100% coverage for all of your treatment and medication costs.
We at CompareHero.my strive to empower Malaysians with financial literacy and the tools to make better financial decisions in life. If you are considering getting a personal loan to cover your medical cost, we offer a good platform for you to compare the personal loans too!