Outrageous Medical Costs at Philippines Hospitals.

I recently received a disturbing email from a new reader back in the State concerning some outrageous medical costs (to the tune of over 1.5 million pesos at this point) that a relative had incurred while a patient at a “For-Profit Hospital” in Global City (Fort Bonifacio.) Let’s call this reader “Jane,” as she has given me permission to publish her email (though I have altered her location and name in order for her to remain anonymous.) Here’s her message:DSC


I Googled “How do Philippine hospitals charge you?’ and came upon your website.  I am from the Philippines myself, grew up in Davao, Mindoro, Bacolod and Manila before moving here to the burbs of Boston
.  The Google search was a result of our frustration for the insensitive treatment of patients and their families by For-Profit Hospitals particularly a prominent one in Global City.  One of my cousins had a virally-triggered acute heart failure around July of this year from which she still has been recovering when she suffered a cardiac arrest the 23rd of October from which she had been in a coma for a week. 

The thing is my nephew had been told that his mom was “doing better than when she came to the hospital” and was in Level 6 Coma which according to the RLAS Scale is “Level VI – Confused-Appropriate, i.e. the patient shows goal-directed behavior, but is dependent on external input for direction. He/she follows simple directions and shows carryover for tasks that have been relearned, such as self-care activities. Responses may be incorrect due to memory problems, but they are appropriate to the situation.”

We are a family of nurses all around the US so when one of our cousins who lived near the hospital came to visit, the feedback was “she is unresponsive” so I don’t understand the rationale for the Level 6 when the patient was comatose, intubated and tubes from here till kingdom come out of every orifice.  My question was “Did they check for brain activity because if there’s none then it’s time to let go.”  We feel strongly that her immediate family was given false information or false hope to lengthen the hospital stay..rack up bills in the Cardiac ICU.. prolong the procession as we say in Filipino..with the the same end result anyway but the hospital laughing it’s way to the bank to the tune of 7 figures.  Which reminds me of the time my Dad had a stroke..asleep and resting..while one of the consultants/attendings tried to pay a ‘visit’ so he could add to his professional fee..whiskey..tango..hotel!?  And this was more than 20 years ago..and nothing’s changed except that the professional ethics has continuously deteriorated for some.

And to me it’s just disgustingly amazing they are allowed to get away with it..and I’m sure on to the next victim whom they’ll squeeze every peso out of till their last dying breath.

Anyway, your thoughts on this are appreciated since you got me interested in your blogs about this and that..two hours later..from my initial stumble upon your website.

“Jane”


I sent “Jane” a reply stating that I was not all surprised that the hospital appeared to be racking up the bill. I have had a few experiences with hospitals in the Philippines and medical costs as I’ve dealt with a kidney stone and various other conditions since moving here over two years ago. This practice is indeed an outrage. I asked her if it would be alright to reprint her email on my website and see what kind of response we get. Here’s her reply:

“Sure have a go at it..as they say an educated consumer is one that makes the best decisions..
..oh and to the tune of P1.5M ++ for a weeks worth of trying to play God and with people’s emotions..I inquired about the bill”

(She was kind enough to add the following:)
“Thanks for the reply..Meanwhile..I will keep on reading about your adventures..I applaud you for your sound judgements and assessments of life in the islands..very entertaining and so reflective of how it really is. )”

So there you are. My heart certainly goes out to Jane and her family.  Have any of you reading this had similar experiences concerning the practice of some hospitals in the Philippines adding to the medical costs of a patient’s bill? This clearly is an unethical and shameful practice.  If so, would you be so kind to share those experiences with the rest of our readership. Thanks in advance.

15 comments

  1. We use St Lukes all the time and its considered to be the best hospital in Manila. Because its in BGC, it caters to the well heeled so there is a perception that they over charge. But service and knowledge of doctors is first rate from my experience. Makati medical is a close second, but the hospital is aging.

    As in all things, get a second opinion if you think she is unresponsive. If the family has so much medical background, then they should know better. Maybe they dont want to disconnect her, but if cost is an issue, move to a local not for profit hospital.

    1. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about St. Luke’s, Don. My asawa sure remembers her mandatory medical examination before she arrived in the States to join me, but that’s a whole different story. We have found a couple of good hospitals in Iloilo City, St.Paul’s and Doctor’s Hospital. We have also encountered a couple where we had less than thrilling results.

      Thanks for your input. It’s always appreciated.

  2. Hi Dave,

    At the beginning of the story the writer stated that she is a nurse and part of a family of nurses scattered throughout the US. It is likely that a similar statement was made at the hospital and the staff took note. Can you say Cha-Ching! It is common knowledge among doctors here that a RN in the US makes more money than a doctor in the Philippines. They saw their patient as a cash cow. Greed is prevalent throughout the industry regardless of the location.

    I recently had an experience in a hospital with my father before he died. They tried to run multiple tests which I explained would be pro-bono unless I specifically approved of each and every one. I even complained when they tried to put him on oxygen with out giving a reason. I told them that oxygen breathing devices are probably the biggest medical supply scam in the US next to motorized wheel chairs. My father was 82 years old and had no history of breathing problems but would quickly develop one if they got him addicted to pure oxygen.

    All in all the medical care that my father recieved here was far superior to the care that he got in the US. The uroligist that he saw agreed with my notion that the least amount of drugs is the best. In the US my father had between 15 and 20 different prescriptions taken daily. Here he had no daily medications and his health was much better. His problem was that his body outlived his mind. He developed dementia from his 35 years of drinking till he fell over every day. In the US he was bed ridden and they said he would never walk again. Here I taught him to walk again and he spent his last two years walking unaided by any device. In cases like this being alive and living are two different things.

    1. Well, Tom, you can probably bet that if the hospital did know about the family of nurses back in the States, the bells and whistles went off. That’s too bad. I would also state that I’m sure many hospitals in the United States are also greedy and run up their patient’s bills unnecessarily. The story you relate about your father is proof of that.

      I’m glad to hear that your father received superior treatment while in the Philippines. I’m all for using as little as medication as possible (don’t include my SMG in that, however.) “Being alive and living are two different things” indeed. I think there are a lot of good hospitals in the Philippines with caring doctors and nurses that are dedicated to their patients. Like anything else, you have to check them out and find which ones are the best for you. Thanks again for your valuable insight.

      1. Dave, Tom,

        I think the biggest problem in healthcare in the US is medicare/medicaid fraud. Its really a major problem. Tom its unfortunate what your father went through in the US. It’s great he was able to spend the last couple years of his life with you in the Philippines. Sounds like that hospital is really taking them to the cleaners. Theres really no way for them to pay that bill w/o help from the family in the US. Good article. Thanks for sharing the e-mail. Take care

        1. Tom was a good son, Papa Duck. There’s no doubt about that. It was good that his Father got to spend his last days in the Philippines.
          And yes, I believe that the medicare fraud is taking away billions and billions of dollars that could go to strengthening the system instead of all this talk about reducing medicare benefits and raising the premiums on backs of seniors that can’t afford it. It’s an absolute scandal.

  3. Dave…thats pretty sad….maybe the hospitals Doc’s there learned their tricks from the Doc’s and hospitals and clinics here in the USA…Example….some time back I went and got the so called “welcome to medicare physical”…give the place all the paper work…medicare info and such…..got the physical and went back a few times….well with in 2 weeks got a bill from the clinic’s billing service…..I looked at the bill and thought..wow! what is this….hi hi hi…Just a total balance due on a piece of paper with a higher amount at the top…..I thought wow…total bill for near $850.00 for 2 office calls and $411.00 due from me….the bill did not say what medicare paid or anything…..so went down to the clinic and at the front office asked them about it….I asked please explain this bill to me…..[they could not and gave me a toll free number to call]..I then asked at the front office this question…”what is the cost of a office call here?”..their response was…..”we really do not know!”..I thought emmmmmmmm what kind of place is this and what kind of run around is this….now fast foward 2 more weeks…got another bill from same billing company and it was a different color of paper…[this means they are cranking up the heat to spook you to pay bill or else]…any way it said..payment due now…….so..I thought ok..I quess this is what I owe and medicare payed their share..[how wrong I was]..so I paid the bill in full and sent it off……..2 hours later I thought…..I think something wrong here and I just got shafted ..so.I thought..there must be a way to find out something from medicare…..so started searching around and low and behold there is…..You can log in to medicares site and view all charges and all payments paid out and etc……wow!..when I got in there and saw my file….then I was really tweaked off…..this billing company was double billing medicare with different account numbers and such……that really made me not happy..{notice how nice words I am using here!]…so I saw a number to call medicare about fraud and such on this same page…..I stuck my fone to my ear and dilaled the number and with in 30 seconds got somebody…a real person….and hey right here in the USA..not in Thailand or India or the Philippines…and I started to explain to the lady on the fone what was going on and she said…..Oh…I must send you to next level…so she did…..and higher up lady go on fone…..I explained to her was was going on and soon she said…..looks like something wrong here…..after about 1 hour on fone she said….she will take care of it……now the good part….I told her about the bill I paid and she said….Oh, no!…You must never pay anything untill you get a statement from medicare and also another good part she informed me of…..any Hospital…Doctor..clinic that is a assigned provider with Meicare…..they have to except the amount that Medicare approves for the procedure or office all that took place and the Doc or clinic or hospital can not charge you extra if they are a assigned provider with medicare…[She said many will try and many get a way with it, but it is against the law to do so]..so needless to say…after finding out this did not go back to this place and they did try to send me more bills and I never paid any more and 4 months later got a refund from them for over payment…..so the lady at Medicare did what she said she would do….I was surprized at the service I go over the phone and also you hear from some that medicare pay slow…..not true in my case….they payed fast…..and to top this all off…..the bill I paid at the 1st of this story…this billing company had all ready been paid over 2-1/2 weeks before I paid it!!!…any way a small exmple of the fraud that goes on here in the USA…in the medical area….and this is a true story…so as said sad about the lady in the Philippines and maybe the Doc’s and clinics there and such learned some of their not so nice way of doing things from the same kind of people here in the USA……Dave maybe this little story I shared here might help some of the Fillipino peoples that maybe live in the USA and get medical help or what ever here..do not know…..but one thing for sure we all need to do more of is ask more questions…learn more about how things work and be willing to say no and not afraid to stick up for our selves and not be in fear of reporting suspected fraud to places like Medicare…..as far as there in the Philippines do not know…have read before that if no money….you sick..to bad…you will die….we not can help you if you no have empty pocket …

    1. Well, Dan, I hope your story will educate some of our readers out there that are on Medicare (like my Dad) and let them know they can do something if they persevere like you did. Kudos to you for investigating the matter and for reporting this. I bet if that half the Medicare fraud was discovered, that the current Social Security/Medicare crisis would be taken care of. The lack of ethics that some of these scammers in the medical profession have is absolutely outrageous. You and I, and millions of others, the American taxpayers (yep, I still have to pay income tax on my IRA retirement earnings in the Philippines) are paying for this. Why our government doesn’t crack down harder on these hospitals is beyond my comprehension.

      Maybe some of the hospitals in the Philippines are taking their cue from their American counterparts. There are certainly a lot of doctors working in the Philippines that trained at American institutions, maybe some of our American greed rubbed off on them and gave them some ideas. I don’t know. But I’ve had my own battles with my healthcare providers and insurance companies back in the States, and it never was a pleasant experience. Thanks for sharing your story, Dan.

      1. Your welcome Dave…the sad part is this…….Many older people do not know what they can or can not do and belive it or not..many of their family does not know…..so they just except what is going on with out questions…..I think the big thing is….people need to become more in tune with what is going on and not be afraid to ask questions and want answers…..I belive millions of older people have got taken advantage of and as said many of them do not know and some have no body to go to bat for them…its a sad mess for sure and as the lady at Medicare told me…….she said..if more like you would do like you have done……then Medicare would be in better shape….so I leaned a lot and next time will not let a place give me the run around…..the big thing is…we still have rights…..we need to understand them better and then with awarness we are more able to stand up to these people….

        1. I couldn’t agree with you more, Dan, we do have rights and we have to report these abuses such as the one you documented It’s a matter of education, too, the more we’re educated on a topic such as the one you wrote about, the more information we are armed with in a similar situation. You’re a lot like my Dad in some ways. I remember when my Grandma died years ago, and the mess of bills and conflicting information he got from the hospitals his mother was a patient of. He fired off letters and made calls to Social Security and Medicare to get the mess straightened out. It took him awhile, but he got the job done.

          The lady from Medicare is right. More people reporting abuse like you did is going to help us all in the long run. Good for you.

  4. Dave for got to include this….maybe helpfull for any expat living in the Philippines or heck any Fillipino person that has or is living in USA and on any kind of Medicare……you can log in to https://www.mymedicare.gov/ and find out all charges and payment and what the medical places did and etc….

  5. St. Lukes at Global City is a hospi-tel (a hospital with accomodations comparable to five-star hotel). Examples of their extra services are free internet connection, 24/7 concierge service, landscaped decks and hotel-like lobby. Of course, the cost all these extra services are built-in into your bill whether you use them or not. This explains the what-seems-like-excessive charges. This hospitel caters mostly to the rich and famous. It is a new hospital and has the state-of-the-art equipments to boast.

    My dad had his quadruple coronary by-pass surgery (after a near-fatal cardiac arrest) 7 yrs ago at Makati Medical Center. The P600k package ended up to be P1.1 million. The additional charges was well-explained. The doctors entertained my calls (from Canada) and took time to explain to me the pros and cons of each step/choice. My family (who took care of my dad while he’s sick) had nothing but praise for the doctors (experts on their field) and services extended to them. P1.1M was the cost to extend my dad’s life and I was happy to pay for it.

    1. Good to hear such a positive report, Carol. Glad to hear your Dad got such excellent care at St. Lukes. You’re fortunate that the additional charges were thouroughly explained to you, because that is not always the case (not in only in the Philippines, but back in the States, also.) My own brother, 58 years old, had quadruple coronary by-pass surgery several months ago back in Illinois. He’s recovering nicely from what I’ve heard and has actually given up smoking and drinking per the doctor’s orders.

      We’re fortunate to have some good hospitals in Iloilo City near where we live. It is possible to obtain good quality healthcare in the Philippines. Just like anywhere else, you have to do some research and also rely on good word-of-mouth reports such as yours. Thanks for the info, it’s appreciated.

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