Dr Sok Siphana’s world was turned upside down in February 2020 when he was diagnosed with throat cancer. It’s no exaggeration to say that medical insurance saved his life. And, shortly afterwards, it did the same for his son. Dr Sok shared the moving story of how his family survived two cancer diagnoses, in the hope that others can benefit from his cautionary tale.
Is medical insurance worth it?
This is a question that Paul Dodd, Infinity’s Country Director in Cambodia, is asked a lot. Clients often question the wisdom of continuing to pay health insurance premiums when they haven’t had to make a claim in years.
But Paul also knows only too well, just what a difference health insurance can make when it is genuinely needed.He explains ‘Insurance is not about the past. It’s about us not having a crystal ball to know what the future holds. The only time you will thank your lucky stars that you have comprehensive insurance is when you really need it.’
Medical insurance saves lives
One man who thanks his lucky stars every day is Dr Sok Siphana, one of Cambodia’s most respected lawyers and a founding partner of Sok Siphana & Associates. He wholeheartedly agrees with Paul and is unequivocal about the fact that medical insurance saved not only his own life but also that of his son.
He shared his story with Paul at a live event in Phnom Penh because he is passionate about ensuring that others are protected if the big C comes calling.
This is the incredible story of how Dr Sok and his son simultaneously battled – and beat – cancer at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. And how their insurance company not only footed the bill but also facilitated the almost impossible task of moving them from Cambodia to Singapore at the height of Covid travel restrictions, to receive state-of-the-art treatment.
A tale of two cancers, and how all insurers are not equal
February 2020. Stories emerge from Wuhan, China of a mysterious virus and the world begins to turn upside down. Meanwhile, in Bangkok Dr Sok Siphana’s world is turned upside down for a different reason when tests carried out on a sore throat reveal stage 3 cancer.
Concerned about the treatment options presented in Thailand – doctors wanted to immediately remove all his teeth – he sought a second opinion. This was the first occasion that felt thankful for his comprehensive health insurance with William Russell. The company covered the costs for him to travel to Singapore’s National Cancer Centre (NCC) – teeth still intact – for further tests.
There he was given the choice of staying in Singapore for traditional radiotherapy treatment or flying to the Netherlands for ground-breaking proton treatment, technology not yet available in Singapore. With Covid in full swing and travel severely restricted he opted for the former to have friends and family close by during his grueling treatment.
As Dr Sok has found out, with insurance, the devil is in the detail. And if you are seriously unwell, having someone else to go through the small print is a true blessing. That’s where the crack team of Infinity’s Paul Dodd and William Russell’s claims adviser in London – – proved their worth. They went through Siphana’s claim line by line to ensure that he received every benefit possible to be able to obtain the best care. In spite of a seven-hour time difference, all his emails to Maggie Robinson were responded to within hours and he felt a ‘sense of caring’ from her which was reassuring at an incredibly difficult time.
Insurers often have a bad reputation when it comes to claims but there are insurance companies out there striving to provide the best possible service rather than trying to avoid paying claims. The insurer you choose is important. A good broker and insurer will provide a level of service you simply won’t get if you purchase the cheapest possible insurance deal via a price comparison website.
As a result of selecting quality cover from a reputable provider, rather than worrying about how he was going to pay for treatment, Dr Sok could focus on his convalescence and recuperating from his debilitating radiotherapy sessions.
Sadly, as Dr Sok was nearing the end of his treatment, more bad news arrived. His 19-year-old son, Sami, had returned prematurely to Cambodia from university in the UK because of Covid and was walking with a limp. When a suspected pulled muscle refused to get better, a medical opinion was sought. The family’s world was turned upside down a second time when a high-grade bone cancer was revealed to be the source of the limp.
There are no bone cancer specialists in Cambodia making surgery impossible there. Dr Sok’s oncologist in Singapore urged the family to get Sami to the NCC for urgent treatment. However, by this time the pandemic was in full swing, and lockdown restrictions were making travel across borders almost impossible.
Given the life and death situation, Dr Sok pulled every string possible to make travel possible for his son. Finally, with the help of Cambodia’s prime minister lobbying the Ministry of Health in Singapore, Sami became the first person to benefit from a waiver of Covid restrictions and was able to fly to the country for his life-saving treatment.
Four surgeries, a lower leg amputation and three punishing months of chemotherapy later, Sami came out the other side with a prosthetic limb, albeit wheelchair-bound and effectively immobilized for an entire year.
A happy ending
This story has a happy ending with both Siphana and Sami now in remission. Dr Sok pays tribute to the essential role his wife played in their recovery. He also recognises that the positive outcome for him and his family is in large part down to his medical insurance policy.
Treatment costs for Siphana came in at $80k, while Sami’s treatment cost a cool half a million dollars. The prosthetic limb alone cost $140k. Sami needed an ambulance to transport him to and from hospital for every session of chemo. Each of these trips cost $300. It’s not hard to see how costs mount up frighteningly fast when a real medical emergency occurs. Fortunately, a letter of guarantee issued by William Russell meant that the family did not have to pay a penny of this upfront.
On top of treatment costs, William Russell covered medical evacuation and living costs while undergoing treatment in Singapore. These did have to be paid upfront by the family but, yet again, Maggie proved her worth by ensuring receipts were reimbursed as swiftly as possible.
Do you have adequate medical insurance?
While none of us want to dwell on the fact that we are at risk of cancer, one in two of us will get the disease in our lifetime.
How would your finances hold up faced with potential bills of hundreds of thousands of dollars?
A monthly insurance premium seems a small price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing that an insurer would pick up the tab if you found yourself in a similar situation to Dr Sok.
If you live in Asia and would like to benefit from health and financial security with a quality insurer, why not talk to us? We’ll help find the best insurance policy for you and, should the worst, happen, you’ll benefit from our unwavering support to help you deal with claims, choose a doctor and access the best possible treatment, even if that means travelling to a different country.
As Paul Dodd says ‘When it comes to medical insurance, one size does not fit all. One thing that makes our service special is that we are bespoke and can tailor any insurance product to your needs. In addition, should you need to claim, we offer first-class support during the process so you can focus on getting yourself fighting fit.’
Don’t delay, talk to us about your medical insurance requirements in Asia today.
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