Transitioning: Thanks Mark for agreeing to complete this questionaire on the rising healthcare cost in Singapore, can you first let us know abit about yourself, e.g. your age, marital status and occupation?
[Mark] Age : 46 years old, married with 2 teenager kids and occupation : taxi driver.
Transitioning: How did you land up in the hospital in the first place?
[Mark] I had a heart attack on the morning of 18 Nov, I was not aware it was an heart attack !
My threshold of pain was high due to my previous many endurance runs and my strong characters.
My wife was quick to send me to A&E upon seeing me in distress.
Transitioning: You have told me that you have given up on cab driving after only 20 months, can you share abit more on this?
[Mark] After the 1st stent insertion during the Coronary Angioplasty procedure done to unblock my vessel. I will need to rest, recuperate at home for at least 1 month. Thereafter, I have been scheduled for 2nd Coronary Angioplasty procedure to be carried out just before Christmas to un-block my 2 other vessels which is 100% lower left and 70% right. Hence, I am unable to work for the being time and hence upon advice of the company, I returned my taxis.
I have since worked for almost 20 months, being a taxi driver. Now I am jobless.
Transitioning: Do you think that the cab driving is a stressful job and that cab drivers should take good care of their health as I heard that your room mate in the hospital who suffered from a heart attack is also a cab driver?
[Mark] Yes, cab driving is a stressful job as we need to pay rental every day, no days off, no MC and we have many expenses to cover like – diesel oil, family expenses, household expenses, phone bills, food & groceries, parking fees, parking charges, ERP, medical costs, children education expenses and many others etc.
Yes, cab drivers should take good care of their health by exercising regularly, eating the right food, watch their diet and having enough rest.
Yes, during my hospitalized stays, I managed to interact with 3 other patients who were drivers too ! – 2 Taxi drivers and 1 company driver. All have at least 1 stent insertion and some have recurrence of heart attack. Some were lucky to be detected early before the onset of impending heart attack or even potential stroke strike.
I was indeed very lucky and thanked God for the new lease of life !!!
Transitioning: Can you tell us more about the hospital charges as you need three stents for your heart to function normally again.
[Mark] Well, the full hospital charges shall be made known within 1 month time due to their internal processing. compilation of stent charges, procedure cost, ward charges etc… I was quoted before the procedure that the cost was approximately to be about $7000. Now, it shall be about S$4,000 as the stent they used was a simple one which cost lesser, thus bring down the fees for the 1st Coronary Angioplasty with the 1st Stent while 2nd Procedures which may take up to 2 stents shall cost about S$6,000 – S$10000 depending on the complexity of my 2 other block vessels – 70% left blocked is ok while the 100% right blocked vessel was given as 60% success rate, also subjected to the number of days stay at wards. FYI. I was in C-class ward.
Transitioning: Can you personally afford the hospital cost? What is your family reaction to the high medical cost?
[Mark] Yes, with my insurance Income Shield + Rider and my wife’s company benefits for spouse coverage of 50% room charges & 100 % hospitalization charges cap at $10000 and with my blood donor benefits of about $600.
So I may not need to pay with my CPF Medi-save for the 1st procedure.
Yes, high medical cost is a concern for everyone, notwithstanding my family.
My immediate siblings have also come forward to assist to cover immediate ops procedure costs, if any and Aftercare costs. I was indeed fortunate to have my closed family support.
However, if I do not have any insurance coverage and benefits coverage from my spouse and not being a blood donor, the situation will be very different – as there is a cap for CPF Medi-save deduction of only about $1,300 and may owe the hospital of $2,700 to be paid in cash. It will definitely be a financial burden to me and my family!
Transitioning: The hospital do allow instalment payment, will you be going for that?
[Mark] Yes, I think re-structured hospitals does have the instalment plan. I may opt for it if, I required it.
Transitioning: Do you have other personal insurance programmes in place?
[Mark] Yes, I have NTUC Income Shield + Riders which was paid by my wife after I became a taxi driver to cover my insurance.
Transitioning: What do you think the government can do to alleviate the high medical cost in Singapore?
[Mark] Yes, as Heart Attack is one of top diseases in Singapore. The Government should take pre-emptive measures per the following:
- Create greater awareness for Singaporeans above the age of 40 years old to have full body check up to ascertain high risk of contracting the various types of diseases – high cholesterol, high blood pressure, hypertension etc
- Ensure minimum affordable cost for full body check-up annually.
Reimbursement incentives for healthy persons who take good care of the health situation.
- Create greater awareness of top 5 diseases in Singapore and highlight the dangers and prevention.
- Encourage Insurance Company to cover such diseases and reduce cost of co-payment.
Allow CPF Medi-save to pay for the rider to enable the person to be covered 100% for the insurance, instead of using up-front cash to pay for the rider especially it is not easy for taxi driver and low income family, aged, retirees to meet the financial obligation .
- Encourage healthy living, eating diet, greater society and family interaction to ensure eating out compliance with healthy standards – low salt, low oil etc.
Eradicate Junk Food Advertising and greater labels awareness programs all year round.
Transitioning: Lastly, what is your advice for stressful Singaporeans out to make a living for themselves?
[Mark] Look after your own health – exercise regularly, eating right and having good diet plan , having sufficient rest, maintain a positive attitude , grow spiritually (w/ religion) and cover yourself adequately with health insurance.
Greater family bonding and interaction to foster healthy life style.
God blessed !
Thanks and end of interview
Editor’s Note: Mark is a engineer turned cab driver after he was retrenched from jis semi-con sales job in 2008. He was jobless for more than a year before he decided to become a cabbie – against his own desire as he needs to put food on the table for his family of four. He has a pair of twins and a working wife. He has also decided to give up cab driving after his harrowing heart attack experience.