Family over money: Ready to pay a $40,000 hospital bill in cash for my child

Adult asian woman hugging her elderly parents

Tiffany Lim* was born with congenital torticollis. This happens when a foetus typically stays in one position for a long time while inside the womb, causing an odd position of the neck. The odd position is because of a tight, short neck muscle. When left untreated, this can cause facial asymmetry and even scoliosis of the neck.

Image to explain congenital torticollis showing the shortened neck muscle
Image Source: SpringerLink

Physiotherapy at just two months old

When she was just two months old, Tiffany’s parents felt a lump in her left neck and suspected something was wrong. Unfortunately, her mother did not purchase any maternity insurance to provide coverage for congenital illnesses or complications.

Even so, without any insurance coverage for Tiffany, her parents still decided to visit a private specialist as family members cautioned that this condition must be treated when the baby is still young.

Tiffany underwent intensive physiotherapy at a private hospital for almost ten months. When she was 13 months old, the physiotherapists and doctors explained to the Lims that they had done what they could by stretching the neck muscles and tendons. They also recommended that Tiffany undergo corrective surgery at an older age as her body changes and muscles grow.

We didn't think much about the cost. We just didn't want it to affect her in the future.

Feeling different while growing up

Throughout her younger years, Tiffany often felt different. She would not wear round neck tees and refused to take photos. She knew that her face and neck were crooked. What made things worse was that her ears were also lopsided. As she grew older, her self-esteem and confidence became increasingly affected. She also started to develop neck pains and shoulder aches due to the misalignment of her vertebrae, causing frequent dizzy spells.

At 17 years old, Tiffany decided that she would go for corrective surgery.

“I didn’t think about the price or how much it would cost. At 17, I just thought everyone had insurance by default,” mused Tiffany, now in her mid-30s.

While she was not wrong, Tiffany did not know that her MediShield only covered up to a certain amount of medical bills at hospitals. 

Corrective surgery at 17 years old

“We weren’t aware of any insurance policies for infants.So we were prepared to pay the full cost. After all, we had over ten years to save up since we knew that she would have to go for corrective surgery some time in her teenage years,” explained Mr Lim. 

A close relative recommended specialists to the Lims. After consultations, the corrective surgery and hospitalisation costs would be approximately $40,000.

We knew that it would be costly. But she is our daughter, and the price was the farthest thing on our minds.

A silver lining in the cloud

Fortunately for the Lims, the financial department of the hospital asked to view Mr Lim’s and Mrs Lim’s corporate insurance policies. It was then Mr Lim found out that his company insurance has coverage for employee children’s hospitalisation and medical bills.

“I knew that my children’s doctor and medical visits were covered but I did not know that their  hospitalisation and surgical bills were covered too. So that was something I missed out when reading my company insurance,” recalled Mr Lim.

Tiffany’s surgery was a success and she was in a neck brace for 6 months as part of her recovery. Although the bill was entirely covered for by her father’s company, she is extremely grateful that her parents had the foresight to set aside money for her corrective surgery.

“Even if my company did not cover her surgery or hospitalisation, we would still have gone ahead with it. She’s our daughter. We want the best life for her,” smiled Mr Lim.

Always be prepared

For the Lims, they had over a decade to save up for Tiffany’s surgery. How about parents whose children were faced with sudden medical emergencies? 

The Lim’s family story reminds us that while there can be planned medical treatments, more often than not, medical emergencies happen at the most unexpected moments. And the best safety net for peace of mind in such moments is to ensure that everyone, including the children, are insured. 

Find out more about the reasons why parents should insure their children.

* Some names and descriptions have been changed to protect privacy. The information contained herein is not presented with the intention of diagnosing or prescribing, but is offered only as information for use in maintaining and promoting health in cooperation with a physician.

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