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Old Feb 11, 10, 11:06 am
Join Date: Apr 2000
Posts: 2,465
How my trip changed in a blink of the eye

Fully flat bed, 21” screen with 20+ channels of entertainment, amenity kit with cool stuff, slippers and pj’s plus robe, more than 30 items on the menu, 3 kinds of tea, etc. Sounds like CX or JL first class long haul flight. Not really. The above describes my 2 day, unscheduled stay at Raffles Hospital just after this year’s SIN FT DO.

As I was saying farewell to the last remaining FT’ers in Singapore on Monday morning, I noticed an oddity in my left eye. I am sensitive to eye health since I had a tiny tear in my retina nearly 10 years ago. While en route to the tourist kiosk for some info, more changes to the vision in my eye occurred. After some minutes of indecision, I finally went to the hospital emergency department at Raffles Hospital. Luckily Raffles Hospital has a special eye center, but I had to wait until 2:30 before I could go there and wait for an examination. Go eat lunch the staff said. Always an emphasis on eating in Singapore. The ophthalmologist diagnosed me with a detached retina and wanted to operate that night. Returning to the US was not an option since repair has to be done with 24 hours of detachment without a loss of vision. Within 12 hours of the first symptoms of vision problems, I was being wheeled into the operating room at 11 PM for a successful surgery to repair my detached retina.

After the initial shock of needing an immediate surgery, the next step was figuring out the financial arrangements. The hospital provided me an estimate of $17K SGD. Normally, a deposit of 25% is required for hospital admission, but this estimate was so high that payment in full was required before admission. I did not have any special travel medical insurance since my health insurance has international coverage. My first step was calling the Blue Cross Blue Shield worldwide number. That service indicated that a direct payment to the hospital might be possible if my benefits could be verified with my health insurance, but they needed at least 24 hours. I tried to calculate the amount of credit I had on my credit cards as a fall back option, but was a little short. The hospital was adamant about full payment before admission. I was running out of options.

I next remembered a benefit of my membership in a business group. I had access to the services of Assist America. I called them and explained the situation and my actions so far. With their help they were able to convince the hospital to accept a larger, but less than full payment before admission and the surgery. Assist America medical coordinators were going to get Blue Cross and Raffles hospital to arrange the necessary payments while I was in the hospital as well as coordinate with my family relatives. After 3 or so hours of frantic phone calls, I was admitted to the hospital for emergency eye surgery 2 hours later.

Later that morning after recovering from the surgery, the saga continues. Assist America was able to do a conference call between my brother and me regarding payment. Because of the MLK holiday in the US, Blue Cross needed another 24 hours for verification of benefits. The hospital expected payment of all outstanding balances upon discharge. They would not accept a payment from Blue Cross 12 to 24 hours after my discharge. Meanwhile, my doctor kept me in the hospital an extra day due to the circumstances of my situation. The end result was that a credit card authorization of my brother’s credit card would help pay for the final bill. A claim for expenses to Blue Cross would be made after the fact (and has been submitted just before the 2 east coast blizzards).

One positive note during my SIN trip was the front desk manager at the Conrad Centennial. I was on a 6 night award stay that ended 1 day before my flight departure with the Conrad ‘sold-out’ the last night of my stay. I planned to go elsewhere that last day, but that was before my hospital stay. I discussed my situation with the day manager (her name was Mai or May, not sure). She was able to allow me to stay in my original room at a reduced rate since no award inventory was available. Whether my gold status with Hilton made a difference is not known. Having a place to ‘go home to’ after my hospital discharge was a relief.

Being alone and in shock with a medical problem in a foreign country obviously affected my actions, but what should I have done differently? I’m still unsure what would have transpired if I had not been able to access the resources that I did use. I do know that I will buy special travel insurance if only for the 24/7 access and coverage.
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