Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Medical Insurance Trap

A friend of mine recently fell from his bike while taking a turn, and ended up getting some minor bruises on his leg. He approached a 'reputed' hospital in Bangalore to get his leg attended to. On realizing that my friend is an IT professional, the doctor casually asked him whether he had medical insurance coverage. When my friend proudly produced his TTK card, the Dr advised him to get admitted for a day so they could start their treatment. They gave him a local anesthesia and proceeded to clean the small wound on his leg and then dressed it up. He was asked to take rest under observation and was subsequently discharged after a day. The bill for a day of treatment was 22,000 Rupees. My friend was not that bothered as he could use his TTK card to foot the bill.

A win-win situation for you and the Dr, right?


We are actually allowing ourselves to be trapped into a black hole. We might think that medical insurance premium is anyway covered as a part of our cost-to-company and we don’t have to keep contributing anything in an active manner. The premium we pay may look poultry when compared to the bills we are able to pay using the card. But one simple thing we need to realize is there is nothing called a free meal. We will have to pay the prize, if not today, then tomorrow. And if might be a case of us paying through our noses.

We are going through the nascent phase of medical insurance industry in India. All the sops we enjoy now are part of the incentives the medical insurance industry is sowing for a grand harvest for them tomorrow. In simple words, they are promoting medical insurance policies by making them easily affordable for the majority. They will be more than happy to foot your bills for a limited period, gain your trust and then suck you in.

Some of the hospitals in Bangalore have two different rates. A lesser rate for people who pay without medical insurance and a rate which is multiple times the original rate which is for people who pay using medical insurance. Nobody complains as they are not aware of the danger yet. In future, as more and more people are lured in to taking a medical insurance, these hospitals will start making the hyped up rate their default rate. Insurance companies will start increasing the premiums to their liking. You and I will be left with no option but pay the high premiums as the medical costs will become unaffordable otherwise.

Cut to USA. One of the major issues in this year's presidential election is going to be related to medical expenses, universal medical care and affordability of health insurance. Each of the presidential candidates has come out with their own strategy to address the issue and most probably this is going to be the single largest issue which will decide the outcome of the poll. The way the medical industry functions in USA is really pathetic. Costs of hospitalization and treatment are astronomical and are not affordable for general public. You cannot survive without having a health insurance policy. And the insurance policies are not cheap as they are here in India. The policy will amount to a substantial part of your salary, if you are opting for full coverage for the entire family.

Something from my personal experience: A simple dental root canal surgery costed me around 2200$. Because I had a copayment insurance I had to pay around 400$ and the rest was taken care of by the insurance company. Just compare this with the current rates in India. Even the copayment I made is much more than the entire cost of surgery if performed in India now.

According to Wiki:
The U.S. spends more on health care, both as a proportion of gross domestic product (GDP) and on a per-capita basis, than any other nation in the world. Current estimates put U.S. health care spending at approximately 16% of GDP. The health share of GDP is expected to continue its historical upward trend, reaching 19.5 percent of GDP by 2017. In 2007, the U.S. spent a projected $2.26 trillion on health care, or $7,439 per person.

Americans without health insurance coverage at some time during 2006 totaled about 16% of the population, or 47 million people. Health insurance costs are rising faster than wages or inflation, and medical bills are overwhelmingly the most common reason for personal bankruptcy in the United States.

Cut back to India. If anyone goes to Manipal Hospital for delivery with a TTK card, they will invariably opt for cesarean and hand them a bill of 50,000 Rs. The simple reason is that is the upper limit set for a delivery by TTK. I have heard rumors that TTK has blacklisted Manipal Hospital because of their atrocious claims.

In India, we have a chain of solid, reliable and not so expensive state owned and private hospitals due to the good work of a lot of doctors, hospital administrators and government regulations. We should not allow that backbone to be broken to satisfy the greed of a bunch of private hospitals and insurance companies.

Things we can do
1. Spread awareness.
2. Even if you are paying using insurance, make sure the charges are just and reasonable.
3. Find out the regular rates at the hospital. Object to paying more and try to bring it to higher authorities' notice.
4. Pay from your pocket and get it reimbursed later. (suggested by Sand)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Idiot Box News

If there is a poll to find out the worst English news channel, I am sure 'Headlines Today' will win it by miles. You get trash and only trash from that channel. The channel is dedicated to airing stupid celebrity gossips 24 by 7. Day before yesterday their prime time was dominated by the breaking news "Shahid Kapoor and Sania Mirza spotted together in a Mumbai mall". Since they didn’t even have the visuals to go with it (not that having visuals will make that gossip any more newsworthy), they caricatured Shahid and Sania and kept repeating those cartoons over and again. Yesterday their main news was about Sanjay Dutt calling off his marriage to whoever that girl is. If there is some event related to the word cricket taking place anywhere, then the entire day is dedicated for cricketers. So many things happen in the world and all they can find are these stupid celebrity news. They are not happy with reporting these gossips as passing news items, they take pains to turn these gossips into full-fledged shows for an hour or so with the so called 'reporter' reporting directly from the scene and 'experts' from all over the country calling in with their opinion about the incident.

The advertisement they show for their channel is an apt one for them. The adv shows some news channels airing pointless 'blah blah blahs' as news and debate, and for a 'refreshing change' the suggested channel is Headlines Today. In fact the adv looks more like it is a straight lift from what gets aired on Headlines Today.

When writing about Headlines Today, how can I miss their super hit show "Grand Stand"? Is that stupid lady who anchors that show really mad or is it only acting? How can people tolerate her in the studio? Is the recording man deaf and blind? I am sure if he sees what he captures he will grab the chair next to him and whack this lady. Her accent, actions, hairstyle and the way she presents things will convince you that either she is mad or you are going to become one soon. If she is really not mad, then I must appreciate her acting skills as it is too close to call.

From the worst channel to the worst programme - MTV Roadies 5.0.

I happened to watch a couple of episodes and now I am confused about the meaning of the word Roadie. I took Wikipedia’s help and here is what I got "The road crew (or roadies) are the technicians who travel with a band on tour, usually in sleeper buses, and handle every part of the concert productions except actually performing the music with the musicians." But that wasn't the meaning I had attributed to the term. I don’t think that is what the game show organizers also mean.

A roadie to me is someone who can ride (preferably a bike, as driving a car is much too simpler) in adverse conditions and who is a bit rough and tough to handle difficult situations and perform difficult tasks. Keeping that in mind, the show is a big disappointment to say the least. All you get to see is a set of real dumb girls and sissy guys arguing and bitching about each other throughout the show. Very few of the participating 'Roadies' know the art of driving a bike. They already had 2 accidents; one was a collision among their own bikes. Doesn't that talk volumes about their driving skills? All of them are such great stunt performers that most of them couldn't complete even one of the tasks assigned to them. That too tasks such as bowling at unmanned stumps and others like that. After a string of tasks with no results, the organizers had to invent tasks such that there will be natural elimination of one participant and hence they can declare the other as winner. Most of the episodes are filled with arguments between the lady participants on 'interesting' topics such as who among them has been flirting with the most number of guys and who is using a push-up bra (or is it pull-up?) and such crap. The guys too chip in once in a while with their contribution like "That day you tried to flirt with me. Don't you have any feelings for me?"


Now to the worst commercial - Pepsi YungiStaan

No words to describe this adv which features Shahrukh Khan, Deepika Padukone and Ranbir Kapoor. Let me just say that the adman who directed that adv should be shot dead. Or better still, he should be forced to watch his own creation a couple of times every day. Since I hate this adv so much, I was delighted to see the spoof by Sprite. The one in which a Ranbir-look-alike falls down after getting an electric shock when he tries to climb up the wall and then crying out things like "I am from JungleStaan, Kabaristaan" and all that... And the way the Shahrukh-look-alike cries out "Kaanthiii" is also funny. It is too good a reply and a slap on the face to the original absolute crappy adv. I am not a Sprite fan but I couldn’t resist myself from going out and buying myself a Sprite as a salute to the adv.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Deadly secrets about me

According to Jiby, tags are a good way to come back to blogging with a bang. Here is one passed on by him.

1. LAST MOVIE YOU SAW IN A THEATER: I don’t remember. I know I haven’t watched Jodha Akbar, Race, Michael Clayton or anything else in the recent weeks. So it has to be that all time crap Om Shanthi Om. Pathetic movie it is.

2. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING? Haven’t read anything for months. I just browse through ‘Randaamoozham’ every once in a while, going through random chapters, especially when I go to the loo before the day’s newspaper arrives.

3. FAVORITE BOARD GAME? Quit playing board games long back. Used to play Chess as a kid.

4. FAVORITE MAGAZINE? OutLook. Can’t stand India Today or The Week. Used to love KalaKoumudi of olden days when M.Krishnan Nair and all used to write for it.

5. FAVORITE SMELLS? Shucks!, is it alzheimer's or am I getting older? Can’t think of anything special.

6. FAVORITE SOUND? Revving of my car when I take a spinning turn.

7. WORST FEELING IN THE WORLD? The one you get when you are turned down by close friends.

8. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF WHEN YOU WAKE? Is it a weekday or a weekend?

9. FAVORITE FAST FOOD PLACE? Used to love most of US’s breakfast chains. Since every other blogger has included Thattukadas in this answer, so be it. The ones near Medical College which used to be open till early morning.

10. FUTURE CHILD'S NAME? Dhridharashtrar or Drishtyadhrumyan

11. FINISH THIS STATEMENT. "IF I HAD A LOT OF MONEY I'D...? Buy all the cars and bikes I want and a house with a MLPL (Multi Level Parking Lot). Mr. Ambani, is your under construction house for sale?


But since everybody else has taken this question as an opportunity to proclaim their philanthropy and safe driving practices, let me follow suit. I speed only on clear roads when I am sure I won’t cause accidents.

13. DO YOU SLEEP WITH A STUFFED ANIMAL? No. I have a feeling that this is some kind of a trick question though.

14. STORMS-COOL OR SCARY? Cool (as long as I am indoors).

15. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR? Hyundai Accent.

16. FAVORITE DRINK? Vodka with Coke. Vodka gets removed from the answer when I need a politically correct answer.

17. FINISH THIS STATEMENT, "IF I HAD THE TIME I WOULD ..... be doing more or less the same things I am doing now. I am not hard pressed for time.

18. DO YOU EAT THE STEMS ON BROCCOLI? I don’t even eat Broccoli, forget about the stem.

19. IF YOU COULD DYE YOUR HAIR ANY COLOR, WHAT WOULD BE YOUR CHOICE? Nothing prevents me from dyeing my hair any color of my choice. But since I haven’t done that, I think that’s how I like my hair to look. So with you Jiby, BLACK!

20. NAME ALL THE DIFFERENT CITIES/TOWNS YOU HAVE LIVED IN. Pala, Mangalore, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chicago.

21. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH? Cricket, football, tennis.

22. ONE NICE THING ABOUT THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU. The courage to attempt to follow his dream.



25. MORNING PERSON, OR NIGHT OWL? Night. I just can’t get up early. Staying back as late as it takes has never been an issue for me (for anything other than studies)

26. OVER EASY, OR SUNNY SIDE UP? Sunny side up. Partly because that’s a safe thing to say in most of the breakfast joints when they list down before you the innumerable egg preparations.

27. FAVORITE PLACE TO RELAX? Couch opposite TV.

28. FAVORITE PIE? I hate pies.

29. FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? I don’t like ice creams.

30. OF ALL THE PEOPLE YOU TAGGED THIS TO, WHO'S MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND FIRST? I tag Rat, Sand, Vimal and Surya. My guess is Rat.