Types of Critical Illness Singaporeans Should Know and How to Be Protected
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The cost of healthcare in Singapore has been steadily on the rise in recent years. Costs for the treatment of critical illnesses such as breast cancer and prostate cancer — two of the most common cancers in Singapore — have also increased. With 44 Singaporeans being diagnosed with cancer every day, critical illness is definitely something that could happen to any of us at any point in our lives.
While Singaporeans may have MediSave and MediShield Life to pay for healthcare costs, both are often insufficient to fully address your healthcare needs — especially when it comes to critical illnesses. It is precisely for this reason that you need to invest in ways to financially protect yourself against them. In this article, we’ll show you how.
What is a critical illness?
Critical illness (CI) is sometimes also referred to as dread disease or terminal illness (for end stage disease), depending on the insurer. These include major cancer, stroke with permanent neurological deficit and heart attack of specified severity. In 2019, the Life Insurance Association Singapore (LIA Singapore) released new definitions for critical illnesses, last updated on 16 November 2022. Here are the 37 critical illnesses covered under CI insurance as per LIA:
List of 37 Critical Illnesses
1. Major Cancer
19. Alzheimer’s Disease / Severe Dementia
Key changes in the definitions to keep in mind include:
- More exclusions for benign brain tumour, coma, stroke, aplastic anaemia, heart attack, major cancers, and other diseases
- Stricter requirements for making claims (e.g. Viral encephalitis and poliomyelitis now all require diagnostic tests.)
- “Major Cancers” has been revised to “Major Cancer” and cannot be diagnosed based on the presence of tumour cells and/or tumour-associated molecules in saliva, blood, feces, urine, or any other bodily fluids
- “Heart Attack of Specified Severity” has been redefined to “Death of heart muscle due to ischaemia”
- “Stroke” has been revised to “Stroke with Permanent Neurological Deficit”
- “Kidney Failure” has been revised to “End Stage Kidney Failure”
- “Parkinson’s Disease” has been revised to “Idiopathic Parkinson’s Disease”
- “Surgery to Aorta” has been revised to “Open Chest Surgery to Aorta”
- Those suffering from Haemophilia and Thalassaemia Major can now be covered under the HIV CI condition
- “Apallic Syndrome” has been revised to “Persistent Vegetative State”
- “Viral Encephalitis” has been revised to “Severe Encephalitis” and includes all causes of encephalitis, not just viral
- The word “irreversible” has been added to deafness, blindness, aplastic anaemia, and paralysis
These changes essentially make the existing definitions tighter and more specific, which hopefully result in less ambiguity when it comes to making claims. Policyholders with existing critical illness plans bought before 26 August 2020 are not impacted by the new definitions.
How to Protect Yourself with Insurance
If you have CI insurance, you get a lump sum when you are diagnosed with an illness that is covered by the policy, providing you financial support as you take care of your health. However, there are a number of important things to note about CI insurance:
- Benefits are only paid if the illness meets the definition stated in the policy (thus, the importance of the new definitions provided by LIA)
- The lump sum does not depend on your medical expenses
- You may have to wait for certain types of illnesses or surgeries. If you suffered any symptoms of, had investigations for or any illness is diagnosed during the waiting period, your benefits may be forfeited
The goal of insurance is to help shield you and your family from the financial fallout of you not being able to work due to your illness. It also helps cover the extra costs that come with critical illnesses that usually aren’t covered by your existing health insurance.
CI insurance is a little more complex than other types of insurance. As far as coverage is concerned, different insurers may offer varying levels of coverage based on the number of critical illnesses, the type of critical illness, and the stage of critical illness covered.
One of the best ways to understand what is covered under CI insurance is to look at LIA’s critical illness framework with the latest definitions for the 37 industry-accepted critical illnesses. Do note that not all insurers will cover all 37 critical illnesses.
One good example of a critical illness plan is Income Insurance’s Star Secure Pro, a whole life insurance plan that covers critical illness and much more. With the Advanced Life Accelerator rider, you’re provided with comprehensive coverage against 56 dread diseases1 (also known as critical illnesses).
One of the best perks of this plan is that, with the Major Impact Benefit2, you’re also covered against future unknown diseases3 as well as if you undergo a surgery or suffer from an infection and you need to stay in an intensive care unit (ICU) for 5 days or more at a go (only valid before the policy anniversary immediately after the insured reaches the age of 85).
Star Secure Pro also offers a minimum protection value4,5 of up to 500% of your sum assured up to age 75 or 80 for coverage against death, terminal illness, and total and permanent disability.
Furthermore, you can also add on Early Life Accelerator which for extra protection against catastrophic cancer such as leukaemia, lymphoma and stage 4 malignant tumour which requires you to undergo cell, tissue and gene therapy6.
Another plan to consider is Complete Cancer Care which protects against early, intermediate and advanced7 stage major cancer. You can choose between 2 lump sum payout options, Care 50 or Care 100, under the Major Cancer benefit8, and set your mind at ease knowing that your future premiums will be waived9 for a specified period up to the end of the policy term upon diagnosis of major cancer. Furthermore, receive monthly payout of up to 1% of the sum assured for up to 24 months10 to support the costs of cancer treatment with the Monthly Cancer Therapy Benefit, which provides comprehensive coverage for cell, tissue or gene therapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapy.
It will be more challenging to purchase another life insurance plan after a cancer diagnosis. With Complete Cancer Care’s guaranteed post-cancer cover option, which is the first in Singapore, you can choose to purchase a new term plan11 offered under this benefit to get coverage for death, terminal illness and total and permanent disability (TPD) upon diagnosis of advanced stage major cancer.
Is insurance necessary?
When you’re young and healthy, insurance for critical illness may seem like the furthest thing from your mind. You may think that you can always rely on MediSave and MediShield Life with an integrated shield plan, right? Well, with critical illnesses, that’s not the case.
Critical illnesses come with many expenses that go beyond hospital stays and surgery, and beyond what the above mentioned plans can cover which is why they also represent additional insurance premiums.
To make an informed decision, here are some pros and cons to take into consideration:
- It pays out a lump sum.
- The payout is tax-free.
- Some plans combine it with life insurance protection.
- It offers coverage where MediSave and MediShield Life can’t.
- It is more affordable the younger you are at the point of application.
- It can be complex and involve a lot of medical jargon. Policies vary from one another and not all illnesses are covered. Coverage also varies with each policy. You’ll likely require guidance from an advisor.
- It’s age restricted so the older you are, the higher the premiums.
With healthcare costs in Singapore constantly on the rise, a critical illness is the last thing you want to have to deal with. You will not know when you might be struck with a critical illness. This is why it’s important to familiarise yourself with critical illnesses and protect yourself and your family with a robust CI plan like Star Secure Pro that will help alleviate the financial burdens that come with critical illnesses.