How to spend your last $100,000March 17, 2007
A friend just had a relative pass away — after spending more than $100,000 on medical expenses, including injections that cost several thousand dollars per jab.
News of the passing reminded me about an article I wrote some years ago, when there was a debate in the press about Medisave. I cannot remember what exactly the debate was about, possibly about Medisave contributions by the sel-employed.
Anyway, my article was never published, so here it is. (The $30,500 figure mentioned in the article is, I believe, the Medisave account limit).
How to spend your last $30,500?
If you are seriously ill and have a limited time to live, and you have $30,500 worth of savings, how would you like best to spend that money? Hands up those who like to spend it in a hospital. Anybody?
In the present debate about Medisave, there seems to be broad agreement that it is both necessary and desirable to set aside a large sum of money for medical expenses. One newspaper editorial states that arguing against the merits of Medisave “is a waste of time”.
At the risk of wasting both my time and yours, I ask that you reconsider this basic premise.
First, is it necessary?
Not if you accept the fact – and this is increasingly confirmed by medical research – that the majority of illnesses can be prevented.
If you take good care of your health, your arteries will not get clogged up, your liver, pancreas, kidneys and other organs will not break down and your immune system will conquer most bacteria, viruses and even cancer cells.
What if you don’t take care?
Well, if you have a heart attack or a stroke, there is good chance that you will die suddenly. So there is again no need for medical expenses.
If you develop diabetes, your Medisave fund won’t cover your daily jabs of insulin. The money will come in handy if you need to amputate your leg, but again, not after that when you need to engage a maid to take care of you.
Of course, there will be some people who might find their Medisave money useful, such as those who require heart bypass, stent insertion and similar surgery.
But hey! The same procedures can be done in Malaysia or Thailand for a fraction of the cost, even after factoring in travel expenses.
Using Medisave to have them done in Singapore then becomes like buying expensive items from a department store when those same items are on sale cheaply everywhere else. You do it only because you have a gift voucher that cannot be redeemed elsewhere.
But Medisave is not a “gift”. It’s your savings!
About the only significant group of people who might find Medisave “necessary” are those who spend the final months in and out of hospitals, fighting one medical battle after another.
If you belong to this group, you would do well to ask yourself – and your children, who might be using their Medisave money: Is this desirable?
One person who found a better way to use his money was the American journalist Norman Cousins, who was diagnosed with a so-called “incurable” illness.
Instead of feeling miserable in a hospital, he decided to check into a hotel. He felt better right away. The service and the food was far superior and there were no nurses waking him at night to ask him to take his medicines. Best of all, it costs less money.
To entertain himself, Cousins rented funny movies. This was in the 1960s, before video, VCD and DVD, when movies came as film and a projector. Cousins literally laughed himself to recovery, and became famous for writing about his experiences in Anatomy of an Illness.
Hugh Faulkner, author of Physician Heal Thyself, was a British medical doctor who was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in his mid-70s. Despite being a medical doctor, he sought alternative treatment through a macrobiotic diet.
He also drew up a list of things that he had always wanted – either to have or to do. He bought a computer and learnt to play a musical instrument. These contributed as much to his recovery as his change of diet. He led an active, healthy and fulfilling life for about another seven years, even though the original prognosis was just six to nine months.
Recovery is never guaranteed, of course. What is guaranteed is that you will feel much happier spending your final $30,500 on the things that you’ve always wanted, than on chemotherapy (or other medical treatment) that causes you to lose your hair, your appetite and your will to live.