Whenever you hear about someone contracting a critical illness like heart disease, stroke or cancer, do you brush it off and think that would not happen to you, because no one in your family have such health conditions?
Well, you’re not alone.
1 in 4 Singaporeans without medical conditions have absolutely no concerns about being diagnosed with a health condition.
However, for those who have been diagnosed with a critical illness, more than 9 in 10 (97%) worry they may be diagnosed with yet another condition.
This stark contrast in perception was highlighted in the AIA Health Matters Survey 2016 conducted earlier in the year.
The truth is, while we are fortunate to live in a time when advancements in medical technology help us live longer lives, it also comes with an increasing number of years living in poor health. Men and women in Singapore are now living 8.9 years and 10.6 years in poor health, on average.
And, as healthcare costs continue to rise, there are real concerns about whether Singaporeans are financially prepared when a critical illness strikes.
“Majority of patients are financially unprepared for cancer treatment and are shocked that modern chemotherapy and target therapy can cost so much. There is a need to help these individuals so they are not only able to fight the illness but, just as importantly, look forward to living life without the worry of being in debt indefinitely,” shared Dr. Wong Nan Soon, Consultant Medical Oncologist at OncoCare Cancer Centre Singapore.
There is a significant underinsurance gap in Singapore when it comes to critical illness coverage, primarily because many are unaware or unclear about these conditions and the financial implications following a diagnosis.
Here, we look at common myths and misconceptions that need to be corrected before it’s too late.
Myth 1: My family does not have a history of any critical illness, so I do not have to worry about being diagnosed with one
Not quite true.
Sure, family record free from critical illnesses could put you at a lower risk of developing conditions such as cancer but it is not a guarantee that you’ll never be diagnosed with one.
There are instances of individuals being diagnosed with critical illness conditions unexpectedly and with no identifiable cause.
On the other hand, there are individuals who are diagnosed with serious problems because of poor lifestyle choices such as smoking, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol consumption. These habits, known as risk factors, lead to diseases such as cancer, ischaemic heart disease and pneumonia which account for approximately 65.8% of the total causes of death in Singapore, in 2015.
In a nutshell, keeping a healthy lifestyle can help keep critical illness at bay but it’s not completely full-proof so it’s always best to be prepared and protected.
Myth 2: If I am diagnosed with a critical illness, my life is essentially over
Definitely not true. With modern medical advancements, the chances of a full recovery have significantly improved for individuals suffering from a critical illness.
Taking the most common cancer in women as an example, more than 7 in 10 individuals diagnosed with breast cancer survived at least 5 years, with the highest survival rates of 80 to 90 per cent among women who discovered the cancer early.
The priority is then about having peace of mind financially to focus on recovery. This not only means the ability to pay for the best treatments available, but also continuing to fulfil other financial responsibilities such as paying for your children’s education, daily household expenses, supporting your aged parents, amongst others.
In fact, being free from financial worries, not being a burden to family members, and protecting loved ones were the top 3 reasons why Singaporeans seek critical illness coverage for all three stages – early, intermediate and major stages of these conditions, according to findings of the AIA Health Matters Survey 2016.
Myth 3: If I am hit with a critical illness, my MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plan are sufficient to cover all my expenses
This is partially true because it is important to note that there are two aspects of insurance that are most relevant when an individual is diagnosed with critical illness. The first is medical coverage, and the other, is income replacement should one be unable to continue working.
While essential pre-, during- and post-hospitalisation coverage are provided for by MediShield Life and Integrated Shield Plans, these do not provide payouts to cover loss of income should one be unable to work as a result of the condition.
Unfortunately, getting insurance for income replacement is something many people often forget or simply overlook to their own detriment. Many end up depleting their savings or worse, end up in debt, because they had to stop work and could no longer pay for ongoing expenses for themselves and their family.
3 in 4 (75%) of Singaporeans who have been diagnosed with a critical illness condition had to stop working fully or partially, and approximately half of them (47%) were the sole breadwinners in the family1.
This is where critical illness coverage plays a crucial role in protecting individuals and their family with payouts to provide financial support and stability.
Myth 4: I can continue to be covered for critical illness even after making a claim. And, I can still be insured should I be diagnosed with another critical illness
The hard truth is your plan usually terminates after you have made a full claim of the sum assured from your critical illness plan.
Not only this, should you also be diagnosed with another critical illness, it is unlikely that you can get further critical illness coverage. Accordingly, findings from the AIA Health Matters Survey 2016 revealed that 94% of respondents who are diagnosed with a critical illness, found it challenging to purchase another critical illness plan even though more than 41% are looking for another critical illness plan.
Buying insurance protection is like a reverse lottery and we hope we never win. However, not being insured carries a bigger risk and we certainly don’t want to gamble the future of our family members and loved ones.
The numerous gaps in critical illness protection in Singapore identified as a result of the AIA Health Matters Survey 2016 also brought to attention the bigger role life insurers could play to support families here.
Accordingly, regular reviews with a financial consultant are integral to ensure adequate coverage for critical illness and other aspects of one’s life. This should be done at least once a year or in preparation of major milestones such as marriage, welcoming a new member to the family, or retirement, for example.
These professionals will help identify, understand and address your health and life insurance needs through a fact-find process before recommending the appropriate financial solutions to meet your needs to ensure that you are adequately protected.
Innovative insurance plans provide Singaporeans with more ways of getting adequately insured. However, it is up to each and every one of us to make the personal commitment to keep informed on what we can do to better take care of our health and make sure that our families are well protected regardless of what may happen.
This article was contributed to us by Ms Ho Lee Yen, Chief Marketing Officer of AIA Singapore