How not to choke on medical fees

The Star reported on Choking from high medical fees

Recently, her family had to fork out almost RM60,000 for medical expenses for their 87-year-old mother who was hospitalised at a private hospital in the Klang Valley.
She was warded in the Critical Care Unit (CCU) for a week and then transferred to a single-bed room. In total, she spent 35 days in the hospital.
“My mother did not have surgery, yet the bill came up to a whopping RM59,000 and the bill was very vague,” Teh complains, adding that the bill covered, among others, the charges for a nutritionist, physiotherapist, general physician, cardiologist, gastroenterologist and respirologist.

Expect intensive care in a private hospital to be very expensive. Depending on the treatment involved, it can cost upwards of RM3000 a day. Elderly patients tend to have multiple problems, can be quite sick and frail. I am not surprised the bill came up to RM 60000 for 35 days stay – I am surprised it was not more than that!

How not to choke?

1) If you don’t have insurance and you are very ill, it can be very very expensive to pay out of your pocket if you go to a private hospital. Better to go to a public hospital. You’ll be surprised the intensive care has a dedicated team in the bigger public hospitals. Private hospitals often don’t have intensive care specialists. Aside from intensive care, very expensive treatment can be incurred in cancer care, cardiac procedures and transplantation.

2) Get insured if you haven’t. Make sure your coverage is adequate for your needs and read the fine print. Do declare any illnesses you have. Failure to declare could invalidate your future claims.

3) Scrutinise your medical bill. Insist on a break down of charges if you haven’t. Don’t be surprised that the doctors charges are a small part of the bill (doctors fees are regulated by law anyway, whereas hospital charges aren’t). The bulk of the bill are the hospital charges. Hospitals can make mistakes and instances of double billing or wrong charges can happen.

4) Too old or have some pre-existing illnesses and hence can’t get medical insurance? Too bad, we really need Obamacare in Malaysia. We already stated our points in our Health insurance – reforms needed posts.


Malaysian physician, haematologist, blogger, web and tech enthusiast