November 17, 2021
Hip replacement insurance: A personal story

It’s an experience I fear will be etched on my mind for life. A sudden, sharp pain in my left hip struck me during a walk earlier this year. I struggled home, resting every hundred metres or so. Then I had the agony of climbing a long, steep set of stairs to my apartment. I had no pain killers.


After a mostly sleepless night, I took a tuk-tuk from my Phnom Penh, Cambodia, flat to the nearest hospital. A couple of hundred US dollars lighter, I was told X-rays showed I needed an emergency hip replacement. The ligaments between my pelvis and left hip had disappeared, ground down over my 62 years. It’s not an uncommon condition for people of my age.


I was sent to nearby specialist Chenda Polyclinic, where the diagnosis was confirmed. The doctor wanted to operate immediately but work commitments obliged me to wait three days, thankfully with a fistful of powerful painkillers.


I had very low-quality health insurance with work that I knew would not cover the approximately $4,700 bill. In fact it only paid out $2,760, leaving me around $2,000 short.


Fortunately, I had been persuaded to top up my insurance privately at a bargain annual price of some $2,000 with Regency for Expats Health Insurance. I was contacted by them blind but impressed with their manner, cover and knowledge, all delivered in a very reasonable and reassuring way. I’m now very glad I took up the offer – but it wasn’t all plain sailing.


Last year, in 2020, I fractured my lower left lumbar falling down some sharp stone steps. The consequent X-ray also included an image of my left hip, which showed a deterioration in my left hip ligaments.


Regency’s comprehensive and forensic investigations discovered this old X-ray and, as we all know, insurance companies do not pay out on pre-existing conditions. I was told that my full bill for my new hip would not be paid. I was offered zero compensation. To make matters worse, my phone and computer had just died and, as group business editor of the newspaper Khmer Times, I desperately needed a new one of each. I was in dire financial trouble.


But persistence pays off.


After a lot of toing and froing by email and phone with Regency’s agents, who always remained calm, pleasant and reasonable, sometimes in the face of some loud and, in retrorespect, regrettable frustration from me, they agreed that relying on an old X-ray when I had no hip complaint and was not informed by my doctor that I would eventually require attention in the area, Regency happily agreed to fully top up my full bill. The relief was immense.


But what remains with me is the decency with which I was treated by the company. They fully sympathised with my situation. We had numerous conversations by email and on the phone. Their manner was always that of a very gentle nurse.



But I also took away some very important lessons from this experience. Check the small print on any contract. Be aware pre-existing conditions are rarely if ever compensated, take out insurance before often-predictable conditions emerge such as knee, hip and back damage start to appear and, finally, customer service is a very valuable asset. That latter skill sets Regency apart in my mind. I shall not forget the initial pain of the medical operation. Nor shall I forget how well I was personally treated.