When it comes to critical illness, the dreaded “c” word comes to mind for most of us — cancer. The sad reality is that most of us know someone, whether family, friend, neighbour or colleague, who’s been afflicted with cancer.
According to the National Cancer Centre Singapore, the incidence of cancer among Singaporeans is rising. In 2015 alone, there were almost 15,000 cancer cases recorded in Singapore.
(Source: National Cancer Centre Singapore)
For women, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer whereas men mostly suffer from colorectal cancer. What’s more, data from the Ministry of Health reveals that cancer is the top cause of death in Singapore.
Cancer doesn’t just have a physical and emotional toll on the patient; there’s also a large price tag associated with fighting cancer.
While data on cancer treatment costs in Singapore aren’t readily available, a recent article by Seedly.sg found that the monthly cost of treatment for late stage cancer can range from S$8,400 to S$16,700.
What’s worrying is that the median salary in Singapore is only $3,800 which means most Singaporeans are financially unequipped if they or a loved one are suddenly diagnosed with cancer.
How insurance can help when you’re diagnosed with a critical illness like cancer
So how can Singaporeans cope with the costs of treating cancer, should they suffer from it?
The first line of defense is health insurance. Thanks to MediShield Life, Singaporeans and Permanent Residents are covered with a basic level of health insurance that covers hospitalisation stays up to B2/C wards.
Aside from inpatient and day surgery coverage (subject to limits), MediShield Life also offers some coverage for cancer-related outpatient treatment. Chemotherapy for cancer is covered for up to S$3,000 per year and some types of radiotherapy are also covered, subject to individual limits.
If you desire high coverage for large medical bills, you can choose to enhance your health insurance by purchasing an Integrated Shield Plan. This plan works as an add-on to MediShield Life, and provides you with higher coverage limits and a wider range of cover as well. While the cover by insurers offering Integrated Shield Plan for inpatient hospitalisation costs are generally the same, critical illnesses benefit is not provided by all.
Health insurance will help pay for medical bills if you suffer from cancer, whereas critical illness insurance can further ease the financial burden associated with such a serious illness and provide lump sum monetary support for your financial situation.
Health insurance and critical illness insurance offer two completely different types of coverage.
A health insurance plan is intended to only reimburse you for medical costs; whatever you’ve been billed will be covered by the insurer, subject to the amount of cover you have signed up for as per your your policy.
On the other hand, a critical illness plan will pay out a sum of money, as spelled out in the policy, when your diagnosis meets the terms of the payout. This lump sum amount is yours to use as you wish. You could use it to pay for medical costs not covered under your health insurance, utilise it for any other costs associated with your illness, or even for daily expenses for you and your family while you’re not working.
Thus, a critical illness plan provides an additional financial cushion during the tough time of fighting a serious illness like cancer.
Cancer and critical illness policies
As major cancers are typically included as one the 37 common critical illnesses covered in critical illness insurance, you can be assured that having a critical illness plan will cover cancer.
What’s important to note about a critical illness policy is when it will pay out the sum assured. Most older critical illness plans or those which provide a basic level of critical illness cover will only pay out during the advance stage of an illness.
Often, when it comes to cancer, this means that the payout will only occur when it reaches a terminal stage wherein recovery is not probable. While this type of coverage still has its benefits, it may not be exactly what you want or need.
Thus, to address the different needs of consumers, insurers have introduced another type of critical illness insurance that covers the early and intermediate stages of an illness.
Early stage critical illness coverage means that you can claim from your policy even if you receive an early diagnosis. This can be especially helpful when it comes to cancer as medical advancements and regular screening have made it easier for doctors to detect cancer in its early stages.
With a critical illness plan that covers the early stages, the payout can be helpful in defraying treatment costs, loss of income during your treatment and recovery periods, and other supplementary costs during your recovery.
Another type of critical illness coverage that can protect you against the costs of having cancer is a plan that provides multiple payouts.
A typical critical illness plan provides a “single serving” coverage; that is, the policy is terminated once you’ve claimed from it. This means that you are no longer covered should the illness recur or should you suffer from a different critical illness in the future.
A multi-claim critical illness plan can be very beneficial when it comes to providing coverage for cancer, as cancer could recur even after a period of remission. In this way, you would be covered for any future incidences of cancer or an occurrence of another critical illness, even after your first claim on the policy.
What about cancer-specific insurance policies?
If you have a family history of cancer, you may be particularly concerned about having enough financial protection against cancer. Thus, a cancer-specific insurance policy may be of interest to you.
While a critical illness plan provides broad coverage for the most common critical illnesses such as heart attack and kidney failure, a cancer-specific plan is targeted just to alleviate the financial burdens associated with cancer treatment.
A typical cancer insurance policy will cover all types and stages of cancer. Most plans will provide a percentage of the sum assured when you receive an early diagnosis of cancer, and often this payout that will not affect your sum assured. Thus, if your condition worsens into an advanced stage, you will still receive the full sum assured from your policy.
This structure of payout can be beneficial in helping you manage the costs of fighting cancer as well as reduce anxiety and stress. The initial smaller payout for an early diagnosis can help defray medical costs, and you don’t have to worry about finances should the treatment fail and your condition gets worse.
Some cancer-focused plans aim to offer more holistic coverage for cancer, providing reimbursement for after-treatment costs such as home care nursing, post-treatment medication, reconstructive surgery, and more.
Cancer-focused policies differ in benefits from insurer to insurer so you may want to compare plans before you purchase one.
What type of plan should I get?
Depending on which stage of life you’re in, your health, and your family medical history, you will have different needs and priorities when it comes to protection against critical illness. While a basic critical illness policy should be a part of everyone’s financial plan, you may also want to consider other types of critical illness plans to supplement your coverage.
If you already own life insurance, you may be able to add on critical illness and/or cancer coverage by adding a rider to your plan instead of buying a new policy. Check with your financial adviser or insurer to find out more.
One thing to note is that you can have both a critical illness plan and a cancer-specific plan. Unlike health insurance which works on a reimbursement basis (that is, you can’t claim for something that hasn’t been billed), you can claim from both these plans if you own them.
Let’s say that you own a basic critical illness policy and a cancer-specific plan. In the event that you get an early diagnosis of cancer, you could claim from your cancer-specific plan and receive a partial benefit from it.
If you recover, that’s great — and both your plans will remain active. You remain covered should the cancer recur or if you contract a different critical illness at a later age.
On the other hand, should your cancer progress into an advanced stage, you can then claim from both policies.
Thus, a critical illness plan and a cancer-focused plan are complementary. If you have the budget to service both types of plans, they can provide you and your family with more comprehensive financial protection.
You can learn more about SingLife’s latest Critical Illness plans here.