Hello Brother, You Got Insurance?

(The reality of things even in Malaysia – my Dad was uninsured for a large part of his life and he remains uninsured till now as it is very unlikely that he will get any policy now considering his age and the number of times he had been admitted to the hospital. Image source : http://www.political-humor.org)

Start talking about insurance and most people will feel very uneasy especially when they are talking to an insurance agent.

When my son was born, one of the first thing that we decided to do, other than to get diapers & baby milk powder, was to get insurance policy for him. It started with the obvious medical card scheme and we expanded on to education policy a couple months later. We then kind of have forgotten about it until now when we need a similar policy for the new Boss. I called up a few people and tossed around with a few proposals from a few insurance companies, balancing the various options and deciding the best for our child. And in the process, I realized that all of our existing insurance policies have been outdated and is in need of a serious review (and a policy upgrade).

We recognize that as cost of living & medical fees keep rising on yearly basis, so what ever preparation that we do today may not be enough for tomorrow – such preparations needs constant review and updates (same goes for prepping). And we were kind of lucky to get ourselves medical cards when we had the chance, when the premium was still low and at the right time too – medical cost is on the rise and it is being more crucial to keep ourselves healthy. We all had used the medical card at one point of time in the last few years with my son being the first to use it when he was down with a fever & ear infection and was admitted to the hospital and me a couple months of ago when I was admitted for food poisoning. My mom probably was the luckiest of all when she was admitted to the hospital a few years on suspect of dengue and later had to undergo a minor surgery (when the doctors found other serious complications during their check-ups). The bill came up to almost RM12,000 and we were quite relieved when a bulk of it was fully covered by the insurance company.

My first encounter with any form of insurance was when I was still young and my father’s relative who worked in MCIS talked my dad into buying an insurance policy. Back then we did not have any ATM machines or any Internet Banking and the relative rarely visit us to collect premium so paying of the premium had to be done the ‘long way” by taking the mini-bus to PJ and to MCIS office and wait in line to pay. My mom not wanting to leave us alone in the house, will bring all of us along for this. My dad was the sole breadwinner in the family so when he fell sick one day and could not afford to pay the premium, no one bothered to advise us on the insurance that my Dad had taken (we were a bit lost on the detailed workings of an insurance policy) and in time, the policy simply lapsed. Years later when we were “tidying up” the insurance documentation and we had to visit the MCIS for one last time, we sat down with their customer service and realized that if we had returned the policy in time, we would have received back some of the premium paid.

My next “encounter” with insurance was when I started to work after my college days in the early 1990s. One day as I was walking out for lunch, I saw my old classmate and after a chat over lunch, catching up on good old times, I found out that he was an insurance agent. So, it was not long before I found myself being “stalked” by an insurance agent to buy a large insurance policy. And after putting off his request for an appointment to explain on the insurance policies, I had enough and decided to confront my friend and told him that since I just started to work and only had a pitiful salary, buying a big premium policy was out of the question. So, my friend kept silent for a moment and then suggested the next best thing – a policy that combines saving and personal accident coverage and the monthly premium was just enough to fit into my small budget (although RM130++ per month was big amount back then) and since it was saving type policy, it was a good proposal. Over time, I had enough cash and took another policy from him. I lost contact with my friend a couple years later and the last information that I got was that my friend was no longer in the insurance industry.

Then many years later, my cousin joined the insurance industry and soon was at home urging us to buy insurance policies to kick start his sales. It has been sometime since we toyed around the issue of insurance for the family and my cousin, bent to impress us with his insurance knowledge explained well on the various policies that fits our requirements. That was the time when we were also seriously thinking about medical card (my Dad had been admitted to the hospital on several occasions and we could see how high medical charges can be) and with my son in tow; we decided to buy medical policies plus a few more policies. With my cousin being our insurance agent, it was also easy to “customize” the policy and the premium payment and he was just a phone call away from any enquiries and customer support.

Over the years since then, I have added car insurance, house owner insurance and once in a while I would get this kind of call – “Good morning, Mr X, I am calling from Insurance Company Y and you are in our premium list (ya, right!). We are offering for a limited time only (ya, right again!) the Z policy which covers ABC”. At first I wonder how these people got my contact details and when I queried further, I get my answer – it is from my credit card company. And I quickly refuse the “offer” – simply because the details provided via the phone are a bit sketchy and there are no whatsoever documents to be reviewed before I say ok for the policy. Don’t get me wrong, I know the importance of insurance – it is a solid Plan B that never fails whilst at the same time forms some kind of savings for the policyholder but I want to ensure that whatever deal that the insurance company is throwing (especially those promotional policies) is the best deal. After all, no two policies on the same type has the same terms (check the comparison of the various medicals cards here).

Coming back to the medical card for the new Boss, we narrowed it to Great Eastern’s Smart Medic as the best among the few that we were considering. The premium is like 3 times higher than what I am paying for my son but we realize that it all depends on that the more we pay, the better & higher coverage the policy is and it is the same case here – so we have nothing to complain about. The monthly premium will come to RM150 with annual limit of RM90,000 (RM99,000 if there was no claim in 3 years range – there is a RM9,000 increase for every 3 years of no-claim). It is an investment linked policy so there was other additional coverage. So that RM150 is addition to my monthly expense list but worth the expense especially considering that the Boss will be covered from the “start”.

The next plan for the new Boss would be education or saving type policy which can be used for her future school / college fees but we are starting with the obvious one first.