Health Insurance: Turning a blind eye towards C-word? Better be prepared for it

Unfortunately, if there is an existing Cancer condition or history, then getting a new policy becomes difficult, even increasing the sum insured becomes difficult.

Health Insurance: Turning a blind eye towards C-word? Better be prepared for it
Health insurance not only keeps the ‘money in your bank’ safe but also helps you to gain tax benefits under section 80D.

By Dr.Sudha Reddy

The C-word brings sweat to our foreheads, there’s no doubt about that.

Even more when today we see that celebrities to our next-door neighbour, a new born to an ageing person, a city dweller to a rural dweller, there is no defined pattern which can guarantee that this lifestyle or social status or gender or location will not get the disease. A research report published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention, 2013, says that around 13 lakh+ people are predicted to report the disease by 2021.
Basically, it can happen to anyone.

Of course, there are lifestyle changes including food habits, exercise routines, preventive care, stress-free mind and more that gets talked about when it comes to avoiding cancer but there is no full-proof method or vaccination that can protect us.

But the silver lining is that if detected and treated at the right time, today even Cancer is treatable. With the development of modern medicines, cancer in some cases, cancer can be completely cured.

Even though new treatments and medical advancements assure you of quick procedures, holistic care and relatively less painful cures for cancer, the protocols are time-consuming and expensive. For instance, the treatment of commonly seen cancer types like breast cancer among women and lung cancer among men cost a minimum of Rs 4-5 lakhs, depending on the severity, putting it under the ‘not-affordable’ category.

For some families, this could cost half of the savings of their lives. Unfair right?

Yes, it is unfair, and which is why we need to plan in advance for these scenarios with interventions like regular annual screenings and a Health Insurance Policy.

Screening is actually the key in timely cancer treatment, therefore an annual screening after 40 yrs in women (like Mammography, Pap smear, Ultrasound) and 55yrs in men (PSA Ultrasound for men apart from some tumor markers) can be helpful. Also, it just takes Rs 1000 to Rs 1500 a year to get these screenings done, making them totally worth it!

New-age insurance companies provide Critical Illness Cover as a part of the Comprehensive Health Insurance. The coverage will include cost of procedures for diagnosis and the following treatment including chemotherapy, surgery, hospitalisation, radiation therapy, immunotherapy and other expenses, along with several years of follow up.

From a health insurance perspective, when you choose your health insurance, check the following:

Go for a higher sum insured: Don’t just take insurance from a tax benefit pov, but also from an actual usage point of view. Here’s how you can go about choosing your sum insured:

  • One straight through way is to choose a sum insured greater than or equal to your annual salary.
  • Another way to look at it is from the medical costs in your city. If you are living in metros, the cost of treatment may be higher vs. if you are living in a smaller town, so choose a sum insured that can cover at 1.25 times of the average cancer treatment.
  • Also, the type of cancer dictates the cost. But having a coverage of 5-7 lakhs is the minimum you should have if you are looking at average treatment costs.
  • In case you are planning to buy a family floater policy then increase the above-expected coverage by 50% as it is shared between members of the family.

Check for copayments: Copayments is a tool with which the insurance premiums can come down for the customer and the risk becomes lower for the insurer. But if you are looking at the coverage to really protect you against big expenditures then copayment is a bad idea.

Have two separate policies: Some people have comprehensive health insurance without Critical Illness cover, in that case, they can look at a separate Cancer Benefit Addon or Cover, though the suggested one would be a comprehensive cover that covers all Critical Illnesses, beyond cancer as well!

Waiting periods: If there is no pre-existing Cancer Illness then there is generally a waiting period of 30 days before the Critical Illness Cover is active for the insured members. And unfortunately, if there is an existing Cancer condition or history, then getting a new policy becomes difficult, even increasing the sum insured becomes difficult.

In short, if Cancer enters your life, you need both emotional and financial support. So, health insurance with a Critical Illness cover is mandatory and is often ignored by people.

Therefore, to avoid such regret, it is always best to buy health insurance with a decent sum insured when you are young, healthy and disease-free!

( The author is Head – Health and Travel – Digit Insurance)

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