I am healthy, why should I buy health insurance?- said Malik Raja Mora, a healthy 26 years old Mumbai immigrant, who lived in a decent apartment, had moderate savings for someone in their mid 20s, and worked, exercised and ate healthy for the most of it. He did not smoke or consume excessive amount of alcohol. On an average, more fit than most youths in that age group in metros lately.
It was in March, on a regular working day, he had a massive headache after work. He popped a Disprin, and decided to call it a day. At 5 am, he woke up and felt heat emitting from his body. He had a splitting headache and blurred vision. He woke up his flatmate who rushed him to the near by reputed private hospital chain (Name removed). Let us hear from Raja himself, the narrative of the events that followed.
In the morning when I was rushed to the hospital in my vicinity, the night shift doctor, took my vitals and asked a few general questions. My fever was taking a toll on me, and my roommate Varun spoke on my behalf. The doctor prescribed me regular antibiotics and paracetamol and suggested that I went home and rested. That time, the swine flu scare had gripped the city. Varun, a borderline hypochondriac, inquired if I could be a suspect and requested to do a test. The doctor seemed a little apprehensive. He said that the test was expensive and we should consult a general physician as he was just a casualty doctor. We agreed and decided to head home. Varun gave me some milk and bread, the frugal items available in our humble bachelor pad, and I took the medicines with it.
As decided, at 9:30 am we went to the physician. My fever had spiked again but he refused to run any tests as they were expensive. I agreed to pay for it, but he did not give his consent and sweet talked us out of it. He repeated the same prescription with a stronger paracetamol and added “isolation” at the end. He advised me to go home and observe for 2 days and told Varun to be wary. I went home and crashed. In the afternoon around 2 pm I woke up with a fever of 103 despite taking a paracetamol 4 hours ago. Varun who decided to work from home that day rushed me to the hospital 3rd time the same day. The on-duty physician was alarmed by the sudden spike in temperature and administered an IV paracetamol drip. Varun insisted on running some tests, but she refused as she apparently required the permission of the attending physician. When did this rule came into place, I did not know. Hence, it was pushed to the next day. My exhaustion level had crossed my tolerance threshold and I could barely walk. A kind auto driver got ready to take us 300 mts from the hospital to our apartment at 2X the meter price. I crashed on my bed and fell asleep. After what felt like 5 minutes, I was woken up by Varun. However the creases on my face from the pillow and the clock said otherwise. I had slept for 7 hours straight in the same position. Varun, tried to feed me some Khichdi he had attempted for the first time inspired by a Youtube video. But, the bitter taste in my mouth and absence of appetite prevented me from appreciating his effort. When I refused to oblige despite constant concerned badgering, he checked my temperature which was now a dangerous 104. He ran to the other room frantically calling people. After an eventful day, my savior was tired and scared of being the solo show runner of my unprecedented illness. He finally called a co-worker for help. They immediately drove me to a nationally reputed hospital about 6 kms away. I was immediately admitted and allotted a single isolated room as an H1N1 aka Swine Flu suspect. They took samples and dispatched them for testing without further adieu. They prescribed Tamiflu to Varun and told him to take extra precaution. He was given instructions to get admitted to the hospital if he developed symptoms. He swore that he had an itch in this throat and it could turn bad, but fortunately the doctor dismissed it as a psychological symptom.
The flawless medical attention I received at the Reputed Hospital, assured me that my health would improve, but little did I expect the monetary punch, soon to throw me off balance.
It started with a deposit amount of Rs. 20,000 to get admitted. I was asked about health insurance which I did not have. Luckily, I was a little more careful with my money than my friends, and I had some savings. I gave my card and the pin number to Varun and he took care of all the formalities.
I was happy with the nice room I was put in, and the care and attention comforted me. They gave me a plethora of medicines to gulp down and I obliged.
I stayed there for another night, oblivious to the costs I was incurring. The next day when I was back to my senses, the reality dawned on me. I was staying in a plush room with the best medical facilities in one of the most expensive cities in India. That kind of celebrity treatment, could not be cheap. I asked the on-duty staff to discharge me, but I could not leave unless the attending physician consented.
I pestered Varun to call the accounts department to inquire about the costs incurred so far. I was shocked when I found out the amount. I believe you would be too. The total was Rs 37500 for one night! Out of which only Rs 8000 was for the H1N1 test and the rest were ridiculous expenses like an isolation room, in which I was put not by choice but for the safety of all patients and medical staff. A single visit by the attending, which involved him walking in, looking at me and walking out, was Rs 2000. Right from the masks, thermometer, medicines, IV drip, I was charged for everything! Oh yes, the terrible bland food was complimentary. I would like to mention that till then my reports had not arrived, so I was paying as an H1N1 suspect and not patient.
When my reports came out, I was declared positive for H1N1, which at that time made me a little happy- at least the Rs 37000 hospital bill was somewhat justified.
My temperature normalized and I wanted to go home. But the hospital refused to discharge me as I was contagious and could be a danger to the people around. My friends promised that they would quarantine me and take care of me without putting themselves and others at risk. Still not allowed. The moment I said I did not have money to pay anymore, I was immediately given the Discharged against medical advice slip and told to pack-up and leave. So much for their concern for safety of the society.
I did not want to put my friends at risk, despite them promising to take care of me and quarantine me. So we inquired at a friend’s private hospital which was slightly cheaper, and they refused to admit an H1N1 patient. As the last resort we headed to a government hospital in a small station in Thane- Kalwa.
They showed us an isolation ward. I was horrified looking at the room and especially bathrooms. I was sure that public bathrooms in crowded areas were better maintained. If I had to stay there for a day, I would contract more illnesses, with my already compromised immune system. We headed home and I was quarantined for 4 days, till I completely recovered.
So after a blow of almost Rs 40,000 I wish I could just give my cashless insurance card at the hospital.
For a basic accident and sickness cover, I am now paying only Rs 4000 per year at my age. It took me all my hard earned savings to realize that I was losing the small amount in taxes anyways. Why not use it to secure my health?
I am healthy and a young individual, which is why I Should Have Bought Health Insurance.
We would like to thank Raja, for sharing his experience with our readers. We wish him luck for a bright and healthy future.
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