Medical contingencies – in a larger perspective

Romesh, aged 40 and an engineer by qualification and a businessman by calling, was always a healthy person and had never visited a doctor in recent memory.

Jan 2008: He fell sick – antibiotics resolved the problem and after rest he recovered, but again the same thing resurfaced every month for the next 3-4 months despite all the precautions. For the last few years he had a medical illness policy covering him for rupees one lac.

Mar – April 2008: He took a Critical illness policy covering him for rupees two lacs, not declaring the issues he was facing for the last few months, since he thought it was not important. In April his ESR was high & Hemoglobin low.

May 2008: His family was now all the more concerned about his health, as further tests also didn’t give any valid reason for the recurrence.  As a last resort the bone marrow test was done. And then hell broke loose on the family, with the outcome of test results – he was tested positive for Leukemia i.e. blood cancer.

After 15 odd days in the ICU and two months of hospitalisation, life was not the same again – neither for him, nor his family, relatives or friends. His wife spent the two months managing things at the hospital. Help came from various sources including his in-laws, his friends, three married sisters, who flew into the city one after the other, for fifteen days each, keeping aside their routines and stood by him during these difficult times. Lots of love, caring and prayers contributed to his comeback.

From September he was on his own, though medication continued and only in the march of 2009 could he start with his work with all the limitations on efficiency, effectiveness and hence productivity.

The episode costed in addition to rupees twenty lacs, fifteen full months for him and his family, few days or months for relatives and friends, a debt of rupees ten lacs, which were raised from relatives and friends to fund the same, not mentioning the emotional and physical drain all of them underwent. The Critical Illness policy was of no help since it was taken after the early signals and the medical illness policy was inadequate.

Medical Contingency

Putting things in the right perspective, let’s explore what Romesh did / did not do right, how it can be improved upon and what more needs to be done:

  1.  Support systems –we saw that it plays a critical role, especially with the evolution of the nuclear family system, during such unanticipated times in particular. The creation of one is very crucial amongst family (Parivar – a much broader term even includes friends and colleagues), since at times the requirement of mental, emotional and physical support is much more than money. The system is robust only when it is reciprocal. Faith also plays a very important role, provided one believes.
  2. Adequate Mediclaim policy – come any medical eventuality, what first comes to mind is a medical policy that provides the financial support – a hedge against financial risk. It plays an important role by providing the much needed cash to face such an emergency which insures the protection of capital created and avoids drain of future savings.
  3. Critical Illness policy – a must in case of any adverse family history of medical issues like diabetes which can further lead to other more serious conditions. It can also be opted for in case of a stressed lifestyle and advisable if one can really afford.
  4. Medical corpus – can act as an enabler, since most of the medical covers available today either have in built limits for specific ailments or the cover itself may fall short of the requirements, besides all the calculations. Secondly the cover also has the limitations towards expenses pre and post hospitalisation, miscellaneous out of pocket expenses like traveling cost to the hospital /clinics for check ups, taking second opinions, having a medical help to take care etc. besides meeting of the running expenses if not attending office (for a long time). This buffer provides the freedom to focus on the condition without money consuming the energies.
  5. Subsequent care and reinstatement – with the improvement in  lifestyle due to our salaries allinged to global levels, lifestyle diseases are now a part of life and all the medical advancements lag behind to some extent. In most of the cases, it leaves a large gap between getting recovered and becoming fit and re employable. It actually calls for lots of care, patience, moral support etc. for a long time.
  6. Exploring alternate sources of medical supplies (as shown by a TV show sometime ago) without compromising on the quality can pinch lesser to the pocket. Similarly alternate therapies can provide treatment with lesser side effects. However these cannot be done in case of emergencies.
  7. Honesty pays. Income tax has a provision for rupees fifteen thousand of medical benefits, which many a times is misused by providing fake bills to avail of the same and similarly the sick leave provision is often misused to accommodate other events. These two if used in the right sense at the time of emergency or for a needy family member / friends/ colleague, creates lot of integrity and trust. Remember the story of the villagers and the shepherd, never trade off the medical benefits / sick leaves for short term gains.

And last and the most important is health regimentation, eating habits and lifestyle, since prevention is always better than cure. Though it may not always help directly but surely such a regiment improves resistance capacity and also is the path to fight back.