The recent string of food poisoning cases in Singapore have resulted in hundreds being hospitalised, and at least one death. While an unusual occurrence for squeaky-clean Singapore, the widespread nature of these cases is a grim reminder not to take things for granted.
Learning of these cases may have you wondering what you can do to protect yourself if you were to be an unfortunate victim. Will your insurer cover you should you fall ill because of food poisoning? What type of insurance provides cover against food poisoning? What are the restrictions or limitations should you be aware of?
Are food poisoning cases covered by insurance?
Generally speaking, the answer is yes. But it depends on the insurance policy you buy. To help avoid any confusion, it helps to think instead about the effects of food poisoning, rather than the food poisoning itself.
For simplicity’s sake, we will consider three cases of food poisoning - mild, severe and fatal - to help us understand the protection that insurance (including your basic Medishield) can offer.
Mild food poisoning
If your food poisoning is mild, you may only require a visit or two to a GP. The treatment is likely to focus on dealing with the symptoms of food poisoning (vomiting, diarrhoea and mild fever and aches).
If you have a hospital insurance plan that covers outpatient clinic visits, you can claim for the cost of your doctor visits. This reimburses you for what you spent out of pocket. Should your plan offer this coverage, there is usually a limit on the claim amount.
Best to find out what the limit is, and whether it is a lifetime limit or renews periodically. You should consider if you wish to claim for your GP fees, or -- especially if it’s a lifetime limit -- if you would rather save it for situations requiring specialist consultation.
Alternatively, you could visit your company’s doctor for treatment, and claim medical expenses as per your company’s employee welfare policy.
As for Medisave, you can only use up to S$200 per year for polyclinic visits. However, you’ll have to be above 60 years old.
Severe food poisoning
If you come down with severe food poisoning, you may need round-the-clock monitoring and even be hospitalised. Serious food poisoning causes severe dehydration and may result in injury to your internal organs.
Here, your hospitalisation plan will come into play, covering you for your stay as well as associated fees and charges for medicine, procedures and consultations.
The amount covered depends on the type of plan you have -- from co-pay plans that require you to foot a set amount, with your insurer paying for anything else beyond that; to no-claim policies that cover 100% of your hospital bills.
For hospitalisation, you’ll be able to claim up to S$450 per day from Medisave. If any surgery is required, the claims limit depends on the actual procedure itself.
Fatal food poisoning
If food poisoning results in loss of life, as in the case of the young SATS officer who ate contaminated food from Spize, Medishield and hospitalisation plans will be of limited use.
Both Medisave and hospitalisation insurance plans can be used to offset or cover the deceased’s hospital bills. These costs can be quite substantial, considering emergency intervention and ICU care.
This will help take care of short-term medical costs. But long-term financial needs of the deceased’s dependants will not be provided for.
Medisave does not provide any death benefits, which means there will not be a payout in the case of death. (You will, however, receive the deceased’s remaining CPF monies).
Hospitalisation plans do provide a death benefit, but only up to a nominal sum of a few thousand dollars. This is unlikely to be sufficient for long-term needs, such as the cost of raising children, or looking after retirement needs of elderly parents’.
If you’re worried about this scenario, make sure you have an adequate life insurance plan.
Standard life plans pay out the death benefit upon occurrence of death. However, different insurers may have different policies with regards to suicide cases, and may have different contestability periods ranging from 1 to 2 years. (Deaths that occur within contestability period may not qualify for the death insurance payout.)
Think long term
Bottom line: part of achieving a healthy financial life means having the ability to cope with unexpected incidents that can prove troublesome or even deadly -- such as falling ill from contaminated food under ordinary, everyday circumstances.
Protect yourself and your loved ones against all possible scenarios (and not just widely reported recent freak incidents) by taking a long term view. See what gaps in coverage you may be missing.
Approaching a trusted financial adviser to help you plan your insurance portfolio is the most practical way to achieve complete peace of mind.
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By Alevin Chan
A Certified Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin's mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He's also on an ongoing quest to optimize happiness and enjoyment in his life.
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