A healthy early retirement - my health check-up in the Philippines
Mahatma Gandhi said,
“It is health that is the real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver.” – Mahatma Gandhi
It's nice to have money, but the benefit is much reduced without your health.
Back when I worked, my employer paid for me to have a regular health check-up. It seemed a good idea, a chance to find out early if there was something wrong, and a greater likelihood of being able to fix it.
I decided that a health check-up was a good thing to continue in retirement, even though I'd have to pay for it myself. Five years of early retirement passed without any sign of a check-up. I decided to change this in year six, adding it to my list of targets for 2022 - proving that my target setting and tracking really does work, I've now had my health check-up.
What did the check-up include? How much did it cost? What is my view of having the check-up done in the Philippines? Did they find anything? Do I think it was worth it? Will I do another one next year?
What did the health check-up include?
I found it difficult to choose a package, it felt like I needed some medical knowledge to decide what tests made sense and which weren't necessary. In the end, I selected the Golden Health Screening Package at St Luke's Medical Centre, Global City. This comprised:
Complete Blood Count (CBC)
Creatine, Sodium (Na), ALT/SGPT, Potassium (K), Uric Acid
Fasting Blood Sugar (FBS)
Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
Treadmill Exercise Test (with 12-L ECG)
Urinalysis, Random Urine Microalbumin-Creatine Test
Ultrasound of Liver and Gallbladder, Kidneys and Bladder
Ophthalmologic Examination (Visual Acuity, Fundoscopy) + Colour Photo
Pure Tone Audiometry (Hearing Test)
Nutritional Counselling and Body Fat Analysis
I added the following options:
PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen)
Sally had the same base package but the options she added were:
Trans Vaginal Sonogram
How much did our health check-up cost?
We had our health checks in the Philippines, so the packages were priced in Philippines Pesos. However, the amounts that hit our credit card were:
David: £517 or €592 / US$630 at current exchange rates
Sally: £593 or €679 / US$722
My guess is that the equivalent package in a more developed country might have been around twice this amount.
We used the savings to pay for our flights from France to the Philippines. It prompted the idea of spending 6 weeks in the country and to visit friends who have retired to the Philippines.
What is my view of having the health check done in the Philippines?
Going cheap on health may be a questionable course of action. But is going cheap different from paying a reduced price available in a low cost of living country? I think there is a difference.
I'm not qualified to pass judgement on the quality of the medical services offered compared to our home country. The hospital that we attended was modern, the service was good and the equipment appeared to be modern and comprehensive. In deciding whether to have the health check in the Philippines, I also considered that:
Many Filipino health professionals work outside of the Philippines (at the end of 2021, over 300,000 Filipino nurses were working outside of the Philippines). I take this as evidence that their training and skills are well regarded.
"First World" medical services aren't perfect. We have family members in the UK who have received serious misdiagnosis as well as treatment/care that didn't seem as good as it should have been.
Did our check-ups find anything?
Subsequent to the check-up (by the way, the various tests took around 5 hours to complete), we received a report that included the test results and a list of problem areas. Seeing the words "problem areas" was a little concerning, and there were 6 areas identified on my report. This is why the follow up doctor's appointment was important. He took me through the report, including the "problem areas", and put my mind at ease by explaining what they referred to and that they were nothing to worry about. Perhaps it would have been better if the doctor had talked us through the report before we received a copy. Anyway, the main thing is we were both given a clean bill of health, with no further action required.
Was it worth having the health check-up / will I do it again next year?
I'm glad that we did it and, yes, I think it was worth it. I just checked with Sally, and she agrees with me, something that doesn't happen often! I don't want to dwell on the money, but I think the cost was reasonable. If the cost were higher, I'd still be OK with that, our health is worth it. I also like that we made it part of an adventure i.e. without the health check idea, I'm sure we wouldn't have spent 6 weeks in the Philippines this year.
The doctor recommended another check-up next year. Will I do that? I'm not sure. I can get certain tests done within the French healthcare system, and I need to decide whether that covers the most important aspects. I wonder if those French tests, coupled with a fuller health check-up once every two or three years is a good balance. So, yes, I plan to continue with similar health checks, the question is whether it will be annually or every two or three years. I'm probably leaning towards the latter, but haven't made a final decision.
While looking for my Mahatma Gandhi quotation, I also came across some words from Thomas Edison
“The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patients in care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas Edison
I am 100% on board with the sentiments of care, diet and prevention. By eating well, not drinking too much, and taking sufficient exercise, we'll give ourselves a massive helping hand in terms of a happy and healthy early retirement.