"Approximately one in four to five people will get cancer in their lifetime,” says Dr Patricia Kho, senior consultant of medical oncology at Parkway Cancer Centre. But survival rates have more than doubled since the 1970s, with close to 50 per cent of men and 60 per cent of women now surviving at least five years after a cancer diagnosis.
Dr Kho says: “With medical advances and improvements in cancer care, more people are living with cancer rather than dying from it.” But living longer can mean a larger medical bill too.
Hidden costs can trip you up
“Even if you’ve got a good integrated shield plan to cover diagnostic tests, medication and therapy required during cancer treatment, there are peripheral costs,” says Marcus Chee, financial consultant at Aviva Financial Advisers. He’s talking transport costs to I really need some peace of mind. and from hospital, mobility aids, and hiring domestic help – which could all add up to some $2,000 a month.
Maintaining quality of life also comes with a price tag. A good diet and regular exercise have proven beneficial to cancer survivors, but “the cost of fresh foods, access to exercise facilities, physiotherapy and more can add up”, says Dr Kho. The best thing people can do to protect themselves is to get a critical illness insurance plan on top of their life insurance and integrated shield plans.
That’s because many insurance providers now offer critical illness plans which dispense payouts on diagnosis of early-stage cancers – unlike previous versions, which offered a lump sum only if you were severely ill. It meant that if you were diagnosed with early-stage cancer and needed to stop work while getting treated, you wouldn’t get financial support. “The money helps patients get suitable or preferred medical treatment early, which can mean a higher probability of recovery,” says Marcus.
Payouts can also be used for rehabilitative therapy, bills or groceries. The flexibility to allocate money based on patients’ needs takes a huge financial weight off.
Early critical illness plans grant another payout if the cancer relapses and reaches a late stage. Previously, once you made a claim, the policy would be terminated. Cancer patients typically did not qualify for a new critical illness plan.
Such plans also provide multiple payouts for other medical conditions. “New plans dispense additional payouts on top of the coverage amount,” Marcus says. “That’s up to 20 per cent of your sum assured for selected medical conditions without compromising the critical illness benefit or death benefit.” You can make multiple claims for preselected medical conditions determined by the insurers without affecting the lump sum you receive if you are diagnosed with cancer. Interval and cap for payouts vary, so talk to your insurance provider about which policy suits your needs.
Get an early stage critical illness plan while you’re still young. Premiums increase as you age, and you could also develop health conditions that affect how much you have to pay.
This article was originally published in the September 2017 issue of Her World magazine.