Posted on Jun 23, 2015 by rob.mcbroom
Imagine if you are at work one day and start to feel ill. You have bad nausea and lightheadedness along with blurred vision. It is usually with symptoms like this that many of us will make the decision to go to A&E. Because medical care for expats in Singapore can be quite expensive, many have secured plans that cover at least emergency medical costs and while one can hope to never actually have to use this plan, there is always a chance. The thing is, because many of us hope to never visit A&E, when we are actually in a medical emergency we may not know what to do, especially later when it comes to making an insurance claim.
If you are in a medical emergency, here are the steps you should take to not only secure treatment but also submit a claim for insurance coverage.
- Call Pacific Prime as soon as possible - This is important as it can help to make the claims process easier in the long run. Here at Pacific Prime we have an Assistance Service which can help in the event of an emergency. By contacting us during office hours at: SGClientServices@pacificprime.com or calling our office: +65 6536 6173 we can provide assistance including information on the nearest medical center and even with the claims process (by contacting the hospital you are going to to start the claims process). This helps because International health insurance providers offer direct billing for some plans in Singapore, which means that if you call before being treated the provider can pre-approve you and the hospital will bill your plan first. You will just have to pay any excess or deductible you have added to the plan. If the emergency is during hours when we are closed, we recommend contacting your insurance provider directly and then contacting us as soon as possible.
- Don’t call 999, call 995 - For many the first number to call in an emergency is 999. The problem is, this number is for the police. While they can probably help in an emergency, the number to call an ambulance is actually 995. If you feel you need an ambulance to take you to the hospital, dial 995 to have one sent out to pick you up. This is a free service for people in need of an ambulance, but there is a charge if it is deemed not medically necessary. If you don’t feel you need one, then get a family member to drive you (if you have a car) to the hospital, or take a taxi.
- Have your doctor either fill out a claims form, or contact your insurance provider - This step will depend on the insurance provider you have. Some providers have a claim form with a section for the doctor to fill in before you are either admitted or released from the hospital, while others state that the doctor will need to contact the provider in order to initiate direct billing from the hospital’s end.
- Get treatment - Most insurance providers can approve direct billing in a fairly short amount of time, but in a medical emergency it may be a better idea to get treatment once the provider has been contacted. They can work with the hospital staff to approve claims and sort billing out while you are being treated.
- Get copies of all records and receipts - If you need treatment and can’t reach your insurance provider, or they don’t offer direct billing for your plan, then your best option is to go ahead and receive treatment upfront. Just be sure to provide the hospital with your insurance information. After treatment you are going to need to submit a claim and will need documents including receipts, diagnoses, etc. to provide to support your claim. So, be sure to grab copies of all paperwork if possible.
Important things to know and plan before any emergency
While it is a good idea to know what to do during an emergency, there are a number of things you can do before or during to make the whole process (including filing a claim with health insurance) easier.
Know the emergency contact information for both your insurance provider and Pacific Prime
In any medical situation you are probably going to need to contact your insurer in order to initiate a claim, or to pre-confirm medical care. Therefore, it will help to know the contact information for both your health insurance provider and Pacific Prime.
As your broker, Pacific Prime offers an Assistance Service which can help manage the claims process and even provide support including forms and advice on how or when to claim. The question is where can you find this information?
The first place you should look is the card provided by your insurance provider. These cards will have an emergency contact number, or a number for a 24/7 hotline that you can call for claim information and support. If you don’t have your card, we have published the numbers of the insurance providers we work with in Singapore on our site, which can be viewed here.
Pacific Prime can be reached during business hours at +65 6536 6173, or by emailing us at SGClientServices@pacificprime.com. By contacting us, we can work with you to help manage the claims process.
Know whether your plan has support for direct billing and the hospitals in your network
Most of the international health insurance plans available in Singapore allow direct billing as long as you visit a hospital included in the insurance provider’s network - a group of facilities that have agreed to accept direct billing and payment from the insurance provider. This can help ensure that you not only receive prompt medical care, but you bill will be covered (up to any limits on the plan) which means you generally will pay less, or nothing at all.
The key here is you need to go to a hospital in your network in order to get direct billing, so be sure to know ahead of time which facilities in Singapore are covered by your insurance. This can be a bit tough to figure out, so we recommend contacting our insurance experts who can help explain your network and identify nearby medical facilities.
Know the location of the nearest A&E
If you call an ambulance in Singapore, you will not get to pick which hospital you are taken to. The drivers will take you to the nearest hospital with an A&E department. Needless to say, this is an important thing to know because you will likely need to tell family members and even insurance companies where you are going (if your plan has direct billing).
One website that can help you find the nearest hospital with a 24 hour A&E department is Hospitals.SG. This site provides an updated list of the hospitals with A&E and the contact numbers for the department (if available).
Know how A&E works in Singapore’s hospitals
In the A&E department of the vast majority of hospitals in Singapore, care is not doled out on a first come, first served basis. Instead, nurses and staff will triage patients as they arrive. This means that patients with more severe medical issues will be seen to first, and those who can afford to wait will wait.
When you arrive, be sure to talk to a nurse as soon as possible for directions. You will usually be given a number and then assigned a room based on the severity of your condition. If you start to feel worse, talk to a nurse who will then re-triage you.
Know what to do if your child is sick
While many A&E departments can treat sick children, most will only proceed with treatment if the emergency is life threatening. The reason for this is because most hospitals won’t have a pediatrician working in the emergency department. Instead, what many departments - especially those at private hospitals - will do is actually call your pediatrician and either ask them what to do, or ask them to come into the hospital to advise treatment.
If the emergency is serious enough the hospital may actually recommend you transfer to KK Women’s and Children’s hospital as there is an emergency department there specifically set up to care for children.
Know when to call for an ambulance
As we mentioned above, calling an ambulance during a medical emergency is free and recommended if the condition is life threatening or serious. If you call for one and it is deemed not to be an emergency by the doctor or staff at the hospital you are taken to, you will be billed SG $198. Just be aware that you will not be able to pick which hospital you are taken to if you do call an ambulance.
For help deciding whether you should call an ambulance or not, see the SCDF (Singapore Civil Defence Force) website. If it is not an emergency you can call 1775 to book an ambulance, or take a taxi to the hospital.
Plan for the event where you are unable to communicate or are unconscious
This is extremely important, as in some medical emergencies you may not be able to speak or will be unconscious. We strongly recommend always keeping your ID card and health insurance card (which is provided by your health insurance provider) on you at all times. Doctors and nurses in A&E departments are trained to search through pockets and wallets for this information and will act accordingly.
It would also be a good idea to provide family or close friends with your contact information (including health insurance plan number) as they can contact your insurer on your behalf.
Combine all of this information into an emergency plan
By preparing for an emergency there is a good chance you will generate a fair amount of information that can be tough to remember during an emergency. To help make it easier for you, your family, and even your friends, one of the best things you can do is to create an emergency plan.
These plans have elements like contact info for people and services (e.g., physician, pediatrician, emergency contact, etc.), addresses/routes to nearest hospitals, insurance plan numbers, etc. They don’t have to be overly long, in fact many experts suggest that the plan be no more than a page or two, but they should be kept in an easy to access spot.
One useful element of these plans some people tend to forget is technology, more specifically apps. Many providers have apps that can not only provide your medical details but also have information on the nearest hospital in your network along with steps to take, and forms, to initiate the claims process. It would be worthwhile downloading these apps if you have a smartphone.
Finally, our best piece of advice is to work with Pacific Prime. We can help ensure you are both covered for any medical emergency and prepared to manage the claims process. Contact our experts today to learn more about our plans and services.