Cancer remains Singapore’s biggest killer, as a recent report by the National Registry of Diseases Office showed. From 2008 to 2012, 29.5% of all deaths in Singapore are cancer-related. This is especially worrying because, according to the Singapore Cancer Society, 37 people are diagnosed with cancer every day in Singapore. But what many don’t realize is that, according to a prior study released last year, cancer survival rates were also increasing.
This 2015 study suggested that the increasing survival rates are partially due to people detecting cancers earlier, while advances in treatments and medicine have also helped to inhibit cancerous cell growth. So while we can take heart that a cancer diagnosis may not be a death sentence, higher survivability also can mean much higher costs.
How can we better prepare ourselves and make sure we’re covered for cancer?
Of course, you’ll want to get a good hospitalisation insurance policy. This will ensure you’re covered for any hospitalisation charges, including the cost of surgery and chemotherapy. Remember, we’re all now covered by MediShield Life, which may be able to cover most of your costs if you’re in a Class B2 or Class C ward. But if you prefer a Class B1 or Class A ward, you should make sure you have an integrated shield plan to provide the coverage you’ll need.
In addition, you should probably get term life or whole life policy with a critical illness component. This allows you to get a payout when you are diagnosed with any of the critical illnesses covered, including cancer. However, do read the contracts or materials provided in detail to be fully aware of the stages and definition of the illnesses covered as well as the payouts provided upon diagnosis.
Why should I pay more for critical illness coverage if I already have hospitalisation insurance?
The main difference between hospitalisation insurance and CI coverage is how your coverage works. With hospitalisation insurance plans, you get to claim for your hospitalisation fees but that’s as far as coverage goes. What the hospital doesn’t charge you, you can’t claim. With CI coverage, you can claim the amount assured (again, the exact amount depends on what stage your illness is at) as soon as you’re diagnosed. This is given to you as a lump sum payout, which means you can use it at your own discretion.
CI coverage therefore gives you more leeway on how you want to use the lump sum payout – you can use it for supplementary medical expenses, post-surgery treatments, or just for your daily living expenses of you and your family while you take time off work.
But there is something you need to know about CI coverage and cancer
CI coverage often includes some 37 conditions, including heart attack, stroke, deafness and blindness. For some plans, the coverage may be reduced after each claim or may even terminate after a lump sum payout. Imagine if you made a claim initially for deafness, you may have little or even no coverage for cancer later on.
With advances made in the field of biomedical science, better cancer treatments usually come associated with higher costs. Maintaining the payments for these prolonged treatments can very often take a toll on one’s finances. You’ll ideally want to be able to get the full sum assured if you get diagnosed with cancer.
So how do I ensure that I am protected specifically for cancer?
This is where cancer-specific policies come in. These plans are specially tailored for people who are specifically concerned with cancer, such as those with a family history of the illness. Cancer-specific policies work slightly differently from traditional CI coverage. Here are two main differences:
1. The pay outs are different
What some cancer-specific policies do is they allow you to make a claim when you’re diagnosed with an early stage cancer. Unlike traditional CI coverage, this claim does not reduce your sum assured, which means that you will still get the full lump sum pay out should your cancer worsen.
This is important because cancer is unfortunately an unpredictable disease. The smaller pay out you received with early stage cancer detection may help to cover your initial costs in treating the disease, but that treatment may not prevent the cancer from worsening or returning.
With no reduction in your sum assured even after an early stage diagnosis claim, you know you’ll be covered even if the worst happens.
2. The level of coverage is different
With most traditional CI plans, you will receive lump sum pay out when you make a claim upon diagnosis of a covered critical illness. The policy will most likely terminate thereafter.
However, cancer-specific plans offer a more holistic coverage in the event of cancer. These plans could include benefits such as include reimbursement for expenses during rehabilitation, such as nursing care or other related treatments
Some people might think that getting another policy might be an unnecessary financial imposition, but given the increasing incidence rate of cancer in Singapore, which is a reality that we just need to face up to, making sure you are adequately covered will certainly provide the peace of mind that is needed when something unfortunate happens.
What else should you look out for?
Some insurers recognise that different customers at different life stages might have different needs, and might distinguish their critical illness policies slightly differently. For instance, INCOME has segmented their cancer coverage into a Cancer Protect policy, which is their cancer-specific policy for the average Singaporean, and a Silver Protect policy, which is aimed at providing additional coverage for the elderly.
One of the key differences here is that the Silver Protect policy also provides other peripheral benefits such as an additional pay out for accidental fractures. It also provides a pay out for hospice care in the event of terminal cancer. If you are looking to make sure that your elderly parents are taken care of, a policy like this would be ideal to cover not just cancer but other risks that they might face in their old age.
Another unique aspect of Silver Protect is that, once you are diagnosed with an advance stage cancer, you will not need to pay premiums for the remaining term of the policy. So you can focus on recovering from your cancer without the stress of having to still pay the premiums. On top of that, you will still be able to enjoy the unclaimed benefits available under the policy.
Interested in signing up for a cancer-specific policy? Get in touch with NTUC Income today.
This article is brought to you in collaboration with NTUC Income.