When – not if – a perilous sickness strikes, the high costs can stun the unprepared.
That is a lesson COVID-19 teaches. New to humankind, no one is naturally immune to it. It easily spreads worldwide, hospitalizing and killing millions. A bout with the disease has cost millions in bills. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) and health cards have proven their worth therein.
A MediCard member accumulated P6 million due to COVID-19 in the early months of 2020, began Medicard Philippines Inc. president Dr. Nicky Montoya. “We handled so many cases like that … I cannot claim for anything heroic because some bills really reach millions, but what we offer is already helpful.”
“[HMOs] never promise the whole package,” he said. In times of sickness, HMOs have provided subsidies on top of government coverage to cushion members.
Investing in a health card entails a sophisticated view of risks and benefits, Montoya admitted. “If you really think about it, it is being savvy financially.”
But, “it’s a financial instrument … in that, for a little cost per year, you have this much benefit,” he said. For example, MediCard members who pay an annual premium of P15,000 may get P100,000 in coverage, depending on the type of plan. If you do not fall ill, your health card at least gets you unlimited outpatient consultations with some doctors, annual physical exams and coverage for some medical procedures.
Montoya noted that attitudes toward HMOs have not stopped improving over the last 10 years, even amid the pandemic: “We have more inquiries from individuals and families. They want to be members knowing that they’ll never know when they’ll need it.”
MediCard was inaugurated in 1987 by eminent physicians who wanted more accessible health care for Filipinos. Continuing that legacy, it has adapted to the Philippine context. For as low as P500 or P1,100, you can have unlimited checkups with primary care physicians and select specialists plus one-time annual physical exam, among others. It also provides solutions for companies, families, senior citizens, freelancers and SMEs (small and medium-sized entrepreneurs).
I cannot claim for anything heroic because some bills really reach millions, but what we offer is already helpful. In times of sickness, HMOs have provided subsidies on top of government coverage to cushion members. Investing in a health card entails a sophisticated view of risks and benefits. If you really think about it, it is being savvy financially.Dr. Nicky Montoya, Medicard Philippines Inc. president
Addressing COVID-19, it has beefed up its services. MediCard pharmacies offer the ARIA COVID-19 Ag Test. For P777, one gets an antigen test that is FDA-approved for home use. MediCard sends the kit, including a QR code connecting the person to a nurse who will facilitate the procedure remotely.
The FINA Ag SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Screen Test is quantitative, not the usual positive or negative test. Very soon, MediCard will also provide the “COVID-19 risk panel test,” which determines preparedness for COVID-19 by looking into specific factors.
MediCard’s 15 free-standing clinics have stayed open as a safer alternative to hospitals. While maintaining that, the company has developed safer, more convenient ways to connect members to its 51,000 accredited doctors and its other services.
It strengthened its own Telemedicine, its online medical consultation platform. To that end, it also partnered with other health care groups. Members can consult 24/7 via MyPocketDoctor. Recently, MediCard struck a deal with Eva Digital Clinic, where the HMO can cover P250 per call.
“We have several clinics and hospitals accredited, now we also have several virtual clinics accredited,” he said.
Finally, it offers MACE (MediCard Access Express), which has consistently topped SimilarWeb’s leader board for medical apps on iOS and Android. The app allows members to view their health plan, as well as request consultations and generate letters of authorization for lab tests anytime, anywhere. Montoya promised even more features in the coming months.
The greater reliance on phones and information technology is more than a response to the pandemic, he said. It answers to the future, where tech-savvy youth will demand more digital solutions and Filipinos—more than ever—will not leave their homes without their phones.
“It’s that there are options,” he said. “Our members are our priority and … we are trying to find ways to make [health care] accessible and easy for them to use.” —BY VAUGHN ALVIAR