The high cost of living | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Too late, I’m told, at 74, to get medical insurance. I had thought so, imagining the conditions I’m bound to develop by then—“preexisting,” as they say.


I did find a reputable company willing to insure me without a checkup, but the premium, close to P100,000 a year, discouraged me outright, until my daughter straightened me out.


“Mom,” she sounded shocked, “that’s only the cost of one session of chemotherapy.” Pointing out my family line of diabetics, she added: “And for dialysis, it’s another P40,000.” Her best friend’s mom had just died after going through the procedure three times a week for nearly two years.


I tried recomputing and came to amounts beyond my powers of mental multiplication. Anyway, I began to rethink the whole business of insurance.


I used to be a believer in life insurance, in fact held a dollar-denominated policy. But the company would not renew my policy after I had been given a blood transfusion during prolonged and profuse premenopausal bleeding. It feared AIDS, a possible consequence of blood transfusion, in spite of every certification that I was getting my blood straight from AIDS-free donors.


Anyway, I suddenly realized I had been living uninsured, and felt like a crook simply uncaught, just lucky. Well, my luck seems to be holding, my most desperate concerns being preserving my remaining hair and my graying 26 teeth, which, given their size and lengthened yet with age, feel like a full set of 32. I calculate that if I kept my P100,000, in five years I’d have far more than enough for porcelain teeth and synthetic wigs!


Vulnerable years


Truth is, I had never paid that much for any medical concerns even during my most vulnerable years—my 60s—when I had been hospitalized at least once a year, for three to five days, and twice for overnight stays. What I spent went to tests that showed nothing, but you know how it is with some hospitals—they’ll always offer to keep looking.


Nevertheless, I’m fully aware the odds are not getting any better at my age, and with hospital costs ever rising. But being the hopeless optimist that I am, who comes from a family of the happily uninsured, I’m a poor prospect for insurers.


Dad was in his 80s when I discovered he had no insurance.


“I’ll be dead, kiddo,” he said when I reminded him. “That should be bad enough. So, don’t tell me I’ll have to worry about you guys yet!”


As it turned out, whether he meant to or not, he had taken care of himself and, consequently, us. In the end, he had left us a modest, but balanced portfolio, as he had always preached—just enough cash, stocks, and real estate transferred to us 10 years before his death at 91.


It was almost uncanny that the cash we had set aside was even slightly more than what we needed for his healthcare bills. Mom, too, who had gone three years before him, had set up a similar fund. It seemed a morbid sort of thoughtfulness.




But not everybody can be so lucky. I recall a family who apparently had not been prepared for the long hospitalization of the father or his eventual demise. At the cashier, bringing up our deposit to the required amount the hospital required for Dad, I couldn’t help overhearing the family anxiously estimating the last of its resources, yet to come from the late-paying buyer of the family home.


While I commiserated, I also became aware, for my own education, that it was a piece of real estate that had saved them.


Leaving us real estate was precisely part of what took care of not only both my parents, but also to an extent my brother and me. It was not any insurance policy, but simply living well yet wisely, if their intention may look a little self-centered, since they didn’t take any consideration of naming us as insurance beneficiaries. Neither Mom nor Dad was simply the type.


Both took care of themselves first, and that turned out to be a good thing for us, too, in the end. And I’m beginning to appreciate their point.


The only insurance I’m happy to get now is for travel, a requirement anyway for people my age. And that would well be my children’s only hope for any windfall.





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