One of the most difficult things about living in the Philippines is funding medical expenses. There is good and bad though. The good part is that the cost medical care in the Philippines is low. The troubling part is that in most cases, you will be required to pay for your medical cost before you check into a hospital or get outpatient treatment. It is up to you to file your insurance claims. I was probably seriously sick a few days ago. The symptoms were serious and if I had been in the USA and alone, I would have had to call an ambulance. What did I do here when I got sick in the Philippines? Nothing.
When the first symptoms showed its ugly face, I was not worried. Now when it happened the first time I was very worried. It was about ten years ago, maybe more. A large circular object formed in my vision. Unlike what many people get, this “floater” blocked most of my vision and didn’t go away in a second or two.
Most people think stroke, I know I did. Doctors at the ER told me “I don’t think this is in your brain but the blood vessels behind your eyes”. My eye doctor freaked out. Told me to call him anytime that this happens. My primary care doctor at the time treats me like a hypochondriac and told me there is usually no long term damage. In doctor speak that means virtually never. Yeah, they told me the same thing about cornea damage from Bell’s Palsy which permanently damaged my vision when I got that virtually never complication. Oh yeah, lupus is rare in men so I probably don’t have that either.
I Got Scary Sick in the Philippines Last Week
So that didn’t bother me too much. I’ve had them before but not very often. But then something much more alarming happened. This is not behind my eyes. This was directly in my brain or the blood vessels feeding it. First the phone was hard to hold, it was heavy. I has having huge trouble spelling, far worse than normal. What I actually wrote, I can’t explain. I was texting when someone told me to go to the hospital and this was my reply:
“No interest not how hospital now I his enough is not how humor number“
I noticed a few minutes later that it was a total disaster. The Filipina stopped talking to me for that night haha.
Then my hand went numb. I just laid back and rested and worried at that point. I had a few thousand pesos left but that was all. Less than P5000. Tonight is the night before payday, I hope and I have less than P500. That is not much money. If something happens to cause my deposit to be late, I will be hungry when this publishes. I should be fine. They have been late once in 25 years so I’m not too worried about that. I thought I had several 500 peso bills in my wallet but when I went to spend them, I saw I only had several P100 bills so that changed things a bit.
The point is that I didn’t have the money to go to a hospital. What I know is is that it was not something to dismiss and the only thing I could do was rest and take some aspirin to thin my blood. I probably took more than I should. I took naproxen, biogesic and one aspirin. Not sure if the biogesic has any aspirin in it or not though. I also had a fever. Early this week I woke up feeling like I’d be better off dead. I am not kidding, my knees were buckling when I tried to walk. I was extremely weak. I also have been taking some high powered antibiotics known as Avelox for that fever and massive fatigue.
Today is the first day in a week I’ve thought being alive is actually a good thing. My doctor has been out of the country and will be back tomorrow, I think. I will wait a day or two before I go see him as he’ll be overrun the day he is back. Unlike the USA, if your doctor is out, where there is usually someone else to see you. In the Philippines, most of the time it is left up to you to find someone else. I have been out of one medication that requires a prescription for most of the month. I need that and it could have contributed to this. I could have got it off the “black market” but I don’t think that is a good idea. I take so little of it now that it shouldn’t matter too much.
The above photo is my doctor in Cebu City.
Government Owned Hospitals
It isn’t my purpose to complain but to tell you what you face if you don’t have the cash to pay up front. There is a cheaper option and that is a public hospital. I’ve never gone to one and I’m not really inclined to base on what I’ve heard and read. And you’ll need to pay upfront there too.
I haven’t experienced them first hand so I don’t know. They would be a far improvement over nothing. When someone is critically injured they are usually taken to Chung Hua and that is where my doctor is located. In this instance it wasn’t a matter of getting it cheaper, free or close to free was all I could afford. A public hospital wouldn’t be close enough to free. Remember, I’m out of money now. I needed an MRI or maybe a CT scan would be enough but I don’t think so. And it would probably come back negative and the doctors would shake their heads. 🙂 Some might wonder if I am lying. I have a lot of experience with that. Most people with lupus do.
The picture above is Jermain in a public hospital in Bogo City.
Insurance in the Philippines
This is a topic that has made a drastic change for the better. I’ve got to go check it out. I found out a couple of months ago that expats, even on a tourist visa in the Philippines can get Phil Health. I THINK the hospitals will accept that as partial payment. I need to find out and I need to go sign up. I dread that. I hope it has air con or I’ll be sick again. Once I know more about it, I’ll write about it. Probably after I sign up. If you have any direct knowledge of how Phil Health works, please let us know in the comments.
This ability to get government sponsored insurance here in the Philippines is a huge change and really will help us that are less than well off by Western standards get the coverage we need. I do wish I had a Filipina that could help me with this though. Maybe do some of the leg work, there will probably be much of it.
(The picture to the right is Chung Hua Hospital.)
I really need to stay well enough to go sign up though. Sometimes I’m too sick to go to the doctor. Right now, my feet have cracked open again which is caused my scleroderma. Most doctors don’t do appointments, they want you to wait on a first come, first serve basis. I was really sick this last week and then they sprayed my room for bugs. That didn’t help at all. Maybe they wanted to get me out and they thought the best way was to just kill me haha.
Have you yourself run into the need for medical care here? Tell us about it please. Did you have enough upfront cash? Nothing better than your firsthand account. Most of the foreigners I have spoken too after a hospital stay have been very happy with the quality of care. Some have complained about pain management though. I’m rather interested in that. I don’t need any heavy duty pain medication but there may come a time. As always, please share this on your social networks if you find it worthy. Best idea is just don’t get sick in the Philippines or any place else. Be like me, immortal and too stubborn to die.
Important Update Regarding Insurance
I am being told that if you have Phil Health any hospital that accepts it much admit you even if you do not have full payment to cover all expenses before admission. Also, Caritas Health Shield is an HMO here in the Philippines that is available. From what I’m told they will come to your hospital upon checkout and pay the full bill. The cost is $100 per month which is very cheap by USA standards but not so for Philippines. That is going to be a no brainer for me. That is a huge dent in my spending but I think it has to be done in my case. I have much more to learn. I’m not sure how this option got passed me. Things change and I was not aware of it.
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