We often scroll through or share messages on social media walls about showing empathy towards those battling with cancer. Instinctively, we pause and pray for strength for the one suffering from the dreaded illness and for their friends and family who suffer along with them.
However, being unprepared for cancer is not only about emotional strength; the reality of cancer diagnosis hits with financial repercussions as well.
It may sound too pragmatic, to be prepared for a disease like cancer and some may even choose to roll their eyes at the “bad omen” it brings to talk about it. But, just like we learn through life to “hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst”, it holds true for cancer as well – the least we can do is to be financially prepared so that we leave no stone unturned to protect ourselves and the ones we love.
In recent years, medical costs have spiralled up with frenzy and while the news of cancer is excruciatingly difficult to digest, the burgeoning cost of treatment adds to the anxiety levels.
A recent India Spend study shows that while India’s cancer incidences are half the world average, we suffer from higher mortality rates. The absence of a well-organised cancer-care system, high healthcare cost, travelling to seek care and the disability it may cause, can push even the most optimist ones to despair. Did you know that currently, the cost of treating cancer falls in the range of Rs 2 lakh to Rs 20 lakh, depending on the stage of diagnosis and for a period of six months?
October is celebrated as National Breast Cancer Awareness month. According to a dipstick conducted across seven major cities, covering 550 people, for understanding the extent to which people are aware about cancer and treatment expenses, about 58% of respondents were aware that treatment costs were upwards of Rs 5 lakh. However, only 12% claimed to have insurance for it.
It is ironic that while as individuals we are aware of the possible challenges we may have in life, we don’t take adequate measures to prepare ourselves financially for these possibilities.
There are several protection products in the market; some specifically targeted at life-threatening diseases like cancer, and so it is necessary to know what you must look out for when you take your decision. Keep these four points in mind:
Focus on robust sum assured and longer policy term: The singular objective of the policy is to support you financially for treatment, to counter the monetary impact. Also, a longer policy term means that you will be covered for a longer time period with the same premium.
Coverage for all stages of cancer: It is important that your insurance policy covers you at different stages of cancer. So, select a plan which offers stage-based claim payout; usually the cancer plans provide a percentage of sum assured at different stages of cancer.
Income benefit / premium waiver: When someone is diagnosed with cancer, their health takes a hit because the treatments are intense. Hence, it impacts their professional life for that period and has financial implications on the family income. It is imperative that you select a cancer Insurance plan which makes provisions for such situations by giving a waiver on future premiums or regular income benefit.
Read the fine print: You are making provisions for your financial protection and don’t want to get caught unaware – be apprised of the limitations and exclusions of the policy: how long will have to wait before you can make any claims, what are the clauses and such.
But what if you have a medical insurance, with a critical illness rider added on, in my term insurance. That is a step up towards building your financial protection and while they are necessary, they may not be sufficient. Typically in most cases, the policy covers hospitalisation or post-operative care; sometimes they cover a range of illnesses and cancer is one of these. Hence, these policies will not be as effective as a plan that covers cancer exclusively and partners with you for financial concerns from diagnostic to treatment at different stages.
BATTLING A MALADY
- Be aware how long will you have to wait before you can make any claims, what are the clauses, etc.
- Having a medical insurance with a critical-illness rider added on in your term plan may not be enough
- Focus on robust sum assured. Also, a longer policy term means you will be covered for a longer time period with the same premium
The writer is chief people officer, Aegon Life Insurance