The Importance of Choosing an Employer Wisely

Richard E. Poulin III avatar

by Richard E. Poulin III |

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As the plane descended, my wife, Judy, and I peered out the window. We could see some city lights sprinkled across the island of Singapore, even though it was very late — or very early, depending on how you look at it.

Despite the time and more than 24 hours of traveling on a flight from our previous home in Beijing, we were enthusiastic to start our new chapter in this equatorial paradise. We had just signed contracts to begin working with a leading and highly regarded international school. In addition to an attractive salary, the employment included wonderful benefits for our family. Staff members were even there to welcome us after we landed at an inconvenient hour, and shuttled us and our mountain of suitcases to the hotel that had been prearranged for us.

employer | AADC News | Richard and Judy stand in the foyer of their home and gesture to a pile of suitcases and backpacks that they are bringing in the move to Singapore.

Judy and Richard prepare to depart Beijing for new jobs in Singapore in 2018. (Photo by Richard E. Poulin III)

The employment benefit that matters most

These were all incredible perks to beginning our new life in Singapore. However, a more crucial benefit was yet to be tested. It didn’t even cross my mind to ask about it during our interview or to review it in our contract. No parent thinks about worst-case scenarios involving their child becoming a reality when they’re offered a dream job.

Within the first month of moving to Singapore, our daughter, Rylae-Ann, began exhibiting concerning symptoms. Alarms began ringing in our heads when these fleeting events transformed into seizure-like spells. Rylae-Ann had several expensive hospital admissions during our years in Singapore, and was eventually diagnosed with aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase (AADC) deficiency.

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When your child is admitted to the hospital, payment isn’t the first thing that crosses your mind. “Whatever the bill is, I will pay it. Just save my daughter.” I echoed similar haunting words several times, and without thinking, twice signed the hospital forms agreeing to pay and making a deposit to prove it.

Singapore offers exceptional healthcare and advanced medical equipment handled by top doctors. For her citizens, having a system and a support network can help absorb these costs. However, as expatriates living in Singapore, our healthcare was tied to insurance provided by our employer. This is very common internationally and in the U.S.

The health benefits we were offered were standard. Each year, all family members were fully covered for routine health, dental, and ophthalmology checkups. We needed to pay a modest deductible for outpatient services, but emergency care was fully covered. This was all we needed and more. I remember thinking, if an emergency happens, my family will be taken care of. I am happy to cover minor expenditures, but it was reassuring to have this health package as part of our contract.

However, the dreaded preexisting condition clause excludes hospital admissions because of a disease that existed prior to the insurance becoming effective. In our case, AADC deficiency falls into that category as a genetic disorder that people are born with.

Where would the money come from? How would we pay all these bills that far exceeded our savings?

Receiving help when we needed it most

Thankfully for us, our employer stepped in and saved the day.

When the bills first started rolling in, I wasn’t sure what to do. We were admitted as emergency care and had to prepay most of the bills before being admitted. We hoped the insurance company would cover some, but we had to prepay and wait for repayment.

We waited, but the money was never reimbursed. Eventually, we learned that according to the fine print, our hospital admissions did not fall under our policy coverage. The human resource department at our school took proactive steps to bring this situation to the school’s CEO. In less than a day, I received an email saying not to worry, that this would be covered. What a huge relief. We could dedicate our efforts to caring for our daughter, and not have to stress about how we would come up with the money.

employer | AADC News | Richard's wife, Judy, pushes their daughter, Rylae-Ann, in a stroller while exploring Singapore.

Judy pushes her daughter, Rylae-Ann, in the stroller as they explore their new home in Singapore in 2018. (Photo by Richard E. Poulin III)

Selecting the right employer

In the beginning, we were attracted by the paycheck, destination, and standard benefits. These were important factors at the time. Now we know that when considering an employer, we must look beyond the basics and consider how they would react when we are faced with serious challenges.

Later, we learned that our school had gone above and beyond for families facing hardships before. Working in a school, we instill values, morals, and friendship. So it may not seem that surprising that a school would do this. Yet we didn’t expect it and wouldn’t have been upset if they didn’t help us out. But because of our employer, we are on our feet today and able to concentrate on supporting our daughter.

Note: AADC News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of AADC News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase deficiency.