SINGAPORE - When Yva Yew was born in 2012, her parents, Mr Yew Poh Cheng and Mrs Lili Yew, felt a mix of joy and fear. Their second daughter had been born with two kidneys on her left side and had complications in her urethra, which led to urine blockages and infections.
Yva had surgery to correct the problem but bills at KK Women's and Children's Hospital - covering multiple scans, surgery and a two-week stay in an A-class ward - ran up to about $80,000.
The child did not have insurance, not even the basic MediShield, which would cover her up to a B2 ward. She was excluded from MediShield coverage because of her condition.
"I tried so hard to get insurance but nobody would take her on," said Mrs Yew, a 38-year-old human resource manager.
Yva's hospital bills wiped out the couple's savings.
"We were starting a family and we knew we needed to save for many things, like our children's education," said Mrs Yew. "But it was a matter of Yva's health. We just spent first and thought later." The family delayed plans to move house and buy a family car.
"We just have to save on these luxuries," said Mr Yew, 56, a tour manager.
Last year, MediShield - the insurance scheme which covers Singaporeans for B2 and C Class stays, surgery and selected outpatient treatments - was extended to cover babies born with conditions on or after March 2013, so long as their parents did not opt out of the scheme.
Yva did not qualify as she was born a year earlier.
However, a proposed MediShield Life scheme to kick in from next year would cover anyone with pre-existing illnesses, including Yva.
This means that if Yva ever needed to be hospitalised, she would be covered up to a B2 ward. If she needed surgery, MediShield Life could also pay part of her bill.
The couple understand that they may need to pay higher premiums for Yva to reflect her higher risk - an additional 30 per cent for 10 years.
"But at least then, she would have a basic safety net. It's much, much better than nothing," said Mrs Yew.
This would leave the Yew family more financially assured. Mr Yew would consider spending "a little more" on enrichment classes for their first child, Lydia, four, and Mrs Yew said: "We could spend on a holiday or two. That family car would seem closer in sight."
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