Work Life: Dealing With a Medical Crisis

(Originally published on June 15,  2011; reprints previous original material published in this section)

By Jhoanna O. Gan-So

Illness can be devastating to the hardworking person. Medical bills can wipe out entire savings. If a disease is contagious or debilitating, you will be asked to stop working for a while, which means loss of income for a critical period in time. As the breadwinner of your family, imagine how much this will impact those who depend on you.

Let me share with you the experience of one reader, Kevin, and the issues he faced during his period of illness:

I was recently diagnosed with pneumonia. At first my company allowed me to take a break for a few weeks to recover, but when I got hospitalized it was discovered that I also contracted tuberculosis. My medical bills reached R95,000 and I did not have enough money to pay the hospital so I asked my employer for support. They provided financial aid as well as a salary loan, but it wasn’t enough to cover my hospital expenses. Our HR manager then suggested that we go for termination due to prolonged illness with an option to reapply to the company when I get better. She said this way, I can get a separation pay. I agreed to this, but now they are asking me to submit a medical report, as well as sign a quit claim before they release the money. I am under a lot of stress and can’t help but feel paranoid with all the paperwork they are letting me sign. Is this really necessary?

Honestly, I feel very depressed. I have spent years working hard to save up, but I’ll have to spend it all to pay for my medical bills. It’s so unfair. I’m sick, I can’t work, and I don’t have money. How can hardworking people like me move up in life? What can I do to improve my situation?

My response:

I am sorry to hear about your illness and I sincerely hope that you get well soon. It is normal to feel emotional distress when physically ill, especially with the pressure of being faced with a steep medical bill. But do know that this, too, will pass. Just hang in there.

Based on your letter I think your company is pretty decent, as they have provided you with medical assistance and a salary loan. They are also willing to give you separation pay as well as give you a job when you get better, so you can at least get some relief and not worry about job opportunities while you are recovering.

The paperwork is necessary. Legally, if a company is terminating an employee due to prolonged illness, a medical report must be submitted and this must be issued by a duly authorized public health officer. It is also prudent for companies to document all things related to termination. Efficient HR practitioners will normally ask you to sign a salary release, clearance, and quit claim form. So just read the documents properly and sign if everything is in order.

As an optimistic person, I don’t really enjoy talking about sickness, disability or even death. But I know that Illness can strike anyone regardless of race, educational attainment and economic status. So for my peace of mind, I’ve chosen to face these issues head on and find ways to protect my family and I from crisis. I urge everyone to do the same.

To protect yourself and your family from illness-related disasters, and to cushion the financial blow that comes with it, take the time and effort to do the following:

1. Invest in health. In the movie “Tanging Ina,” Ai Ai de las Alas says: “Ang batang masipag, paglaki…pagod (A kid who works hard, grows up…tired).” People who work hard do just that—work hard. In the midst of all the hard work, they forget to eat properly, rest well and exercise. They end up working hard for money, and then they get sick and lose their hard-earned money. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be stopped.

The best way to prevent illness-related blows is to stay healthy. Eat when you have to eat. Take a break when you need to rest. Wash your hands often to avoid bacteria and viruses. If you get sick, stay home until you get better. Don’t ever act the martyr by forcing yourself to go to work when you are seriously ill, or worse, contagious. Other people might catch what you have and they will not be happy about it. Learn to work smarter, not harder. You will become healthier and happier in the long run.

2. Invest in affordable health insurance. Honestly today’s rising medical costs will give anyone a heart attack. Depending on the illness and treatment required, bills can run from thousands to millions. Your SSS and Philhealth membership will help a bit, so make sure your contributions are up to date. If your company provides healthcare or HMO, then good for you. It will help pay for hospitalization in case you get confined. But if your company does not provide this benefit, you can proactively research and look for an affordable plan for you and your family (or even get free healthcare, if you’re a Makati resident with that magic yellow card).

See, companies are not required by law to give healthcare benefits aside from SSS and Philhealth. They are not legally bound to cover your medical costs. Employers will pay you for your day’s work. They are responsible for providing good working conditions, but they are not accountable for your health. In other words, you are ultimately responsible for taking care of yourself.

It isn’t just about working hard anymore. More importantly, it’s about living smart. Take care of your health and finances now, because nobody else will do it for you.

Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy, HR Club Philippines and Teach It Forward Organization. Her company holds corporate skills training programs and HR seminars for various individuals and corporations. To know more about the seminars and services that they offer, you may visit You may also call (632)6874645. E-mail your comments and questions to:


(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)




Posted on August 31, 2011, in Business Agenda Classifieds Columns, Work Life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: