How having health insurance saved me from financial ruin!
A personal story of how purchasing health insurance with maternity benefits saved me from going broke
The date was February 28, 2018 and it had been barely two months since I got married (the second wedding ceremony in two months) and it is safe to say that my bank account was in the red. I had decided to leave paid employment full time to pursue my dreams ? and one of the key benefits you lose with this decision is the health benefits provided by your employer. Most companies discontinue health cover almost immediately after a staff resigns but my employers were gracious enough to give me a full month’s cover after my last official work day at the company.
One of the key benefits you lose after leaving paid employment in a structured organization is access to healthcare benefits sponsored by the employer under the preferred health insurance scheme (public or private).
I had decided to pursue the entrepreneurial path to give me the opportunity to provide affordable medical records software to providers of healthcare who often had to struggle with manual, inefficient processes which in turn impacted negatively on the quality of care received within the country (Nigeria). So armed with my laptop and less than a thousand dollars in savings, I took the proverbial jump out of the plane with the intention of building my parachute on the way down. I gave little thought about the loss of my health cover since my wife and I rarely ever went to the hospital and so I figured what could possibly go wrong within the first year?
My wife and I had intended to wait for a year before having our first child so that we could get to know each other and have loads of fun on our own before the kids came and so we were pleasantly surprised when a trip to the hospital to treat what presented as a fever led to a pregnancy test which turned out positive and voila! we were expecting our first child. While a number of things crossed my mind at the time (read bills, bills, bills), one thing that I had learned over time was the importance of quality healthcare especially through the journey of pregnancy and child birth.
“Maternal mortality is the death of a woman while pregnant irrespective of the duration and site of the pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management. While infant mortality rate is the rate children die at birth or shortly after birth”
Nigeria has a very high maternal and infant mortality rate (about 14% of the world’s maternal mortality deaths) and I deduced from this report that up to 2,600 children die within the first 24 hours from preventable and often treatable causes. I therefore decided long ago that I would not cut corners whenever it came to accessing quality healthcare and decided to shop for alternatives to the kind of health cover I enjoyed under my former employer. This turned out to be surprisingly easy as I was able to narrow down to a health package that provided all of the maternity benefits (antenatal, delivery and postnatal care) just by “knowing” and asking the right questions. I ended up paying a fraction of what this service would cost if I walked into a top tier hospital as a private patient.
Cost of the health insurance premium we purchased (with access to a premium hospital) = ₦450,000 (about $1,250)
Estimated cost of the same service if we had paid out of pocket at the same hospital = ₦1,800,000 (about $5,000)
To say that this was a great bargain would be an understatement. The calculation above showed that I saved about 75% of the actual cost of the service at a premium hospital and with flexible payment options provided by the health insurance company.
Without going into too much details, it is safe to say that having just left paid employment, with a bill as high as this, chances are I may have taken out a loan (if I managed to convince the bank) and would have ended up paying as high as 28% interest on the principal amount which would have driven me further into debt. The main motivation behind this story is to shed more light on the importance of having health insurance so that people are aware of the possibilities and options available despite the challenges with attaining universal health cover in Nigeria.