What to do in an emergency: when to call an ambulance or hospital, and how to manage insurance

Accidents happen. Illnesses happen. Stuff happens. And when you’ve got kids, these happenings seem to happen all the more often! Visiting a doctor or an emergency room can be stressful, especially if you’re new to the city you’re living in (but at least in Singapore, help is never too far away). Dealing with your insurance provider to submit a claim can make things even more stressful, so it’s important to know the steps you need to take to ensure both prompt care at the hospital and efficient service from your family health insurance provider. Behold, your cheat sheet for what to do in a health emergency!

Before the stuff hits the fan
While no one wants to plan for an emergency, often a bit of forward thinking will help lighten the load if and when it happens. Here’s what to do to ensure you’re able to get the medical help you need, quick smart:

1. Review your health insurance plan documents – while this may be tedious, it’s super important! Many insurers now implement preferred networks of healthcare providers, meaning they’ll bill the insurer directly when you seek care at these locations. You’ll get attended to more quickly, and never have to submit a claim. Check the provider list!

2. Find out where the nearest hospitals are
Not just the ones closest to home, but also work, school, and anywhere else you and your family regularly spend time. Look at which hospitals accept your insurance, find the nearest one with emergency and a 24/7 paediatrics department, and work out how you’ll get to each location.

3. Know when and how to call – and when not to call – an ambulance
In an emergency needing immediate treatment, dial 995. In a non-emergency, dial 1777. Don’t call if you simply have a bad toothache or a mild tummy upset, as this will set you back $274. Ambulances in Singapore are managed by the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and they’ve published a handy guide on when and how to call for help. Do bear in mind that you can’t be picky: you’ll be taken to the closest hospital, not the one of your choice.

When the stuff actually does hit the fan
Should the unthinkable – but now thinkable, because you’ve followed the three steps above! – happen, here’s what you need to do to get help quickly, and cut down on potential insurance company pain:

1. Call an ambulance if it’s an emergency – if you’re able to get yourself to the hospital via taxi or car, don’t waste precious resources that could be attending to someone in genuine need. If it’s a true emergency, call 995.

2. Call your insurer or broker – a little odd as step two perhaps, but if you’ve got your wits about you, doing this could really help reduce waiting times with your insurer, and at the hospital. If you can call the insurer’s emergency hotline (usually found on your membership card) on your way to the hospital they’ll likely be able to approve care ahead of time. A good insurance broker can also help arrange care and start the claims process.

3. Ask your doctor to fill out a claim form – this depends on whether you have direct billing (if you do, there’s probably no need for claim forms). Most hospitals will ask you about this before you receive treatment, but in an emergency it may be done afterwards.

4. Get treated! – of course, if you can’t reach your insurer before you’re admitted to hospital, just go ahead and get the treatment you need. You can sort the rest out later.

5. Grab copies of all receipts and medical care records – even if your hospital offers direct billing, keep copies of everything. You just never know when you might need it, and asking the hospital for it weeks later can be a total pain in the butt.

Of course, all of this assumes you have health insurance! If you’re an expat in Singapore, it’s so important to ensure you have quality coverage for your family, especially if you plan to make use of the private hospital system. Get in touch with the local health insurance experts at Pacific Prime Singapore to find out more about your options and how you can lock in the best insurance plan for your family. Then, get back to the important business of preventing the stuff from hitting the fan!


This post is sponsored by Pacific Prime.