How can you secure yourself financially against the threat of kidney disease?

The occurrence of kidney disease has increased significantly over the past few years. Could you afford treatment, if you were diagnosed with this medical condition?

How can you secure yourself financially against the threat of kidney disease?

March 8 is World Kidney Day (WKD). Never heard of it? Perhaps all of us need to make ourselves a little more aware of one of the most debilitating illnesses in the world. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) is severely under-addressed in India because of poor awareness at all levels of society.

Given that the kidney is the easiest of all human organs to treat and transplant, Indian patients suffer from comparably poor outcomes when measured against patients in developed (or even some developing) countries.

While the majority of patients in the west are elderly, patients in India tend to be younger, and this predominantly affects the working population. To begin with, here are some numbers for you to mull over:

  • A study by Harvard Medical School, in association with 13 medical centres across India, found that 17% of the population suffers from some form of CKD. One-third of them have advanced stages of the disease.
  • More than 60 million people in India suffer from diabetes, the largest number among all the countries in the world.
  • According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), in 2015 diabetes affected 7.1% of the total adult population of India, and for those over 40 who live in urban areas, the prevalence is as high as 28%.
  • At least 30% of diabetics will develop CKD as a result of diabetes.
  • CKD-5 patients (the last stage of kidney failure) require dialysis and/or a kidney transplant to stay alive. About 40% of them have reached this stage because of diabetes.
  • Of the 20 million Indians who should be undergoing dialysis, only about 100,000 actually are.
  • Though accurate figures aren’t available, it is accepted that almost 50% of patients first see a nephrologist (kidney specialist) only when they are in CKD-5.
  • Every year, 2 lakh new patients need dialysis treatment, but the unfortunate reality is that less than 20% of them are treated effectively. The rest remain undiagnosed or are not able to continue treatment.
  • There are 0.4 dialysis centres per million people in India. In comparison, Japan has 20 centres per million.
  • Only 4,000 kidney transplants are carried out every year in India. The United States, which has one-fourth the population of India, performs 16,000 such operations every year.

Related: If you faced a medical emergency today, could you cope with it?

World Kidney Day 2018

World Kidney Day is a joint initiative between the International Federation of Kidney Foundations (IFKF) and International Society of Nephrology (ISN). Now in its 13th year, World Kidney Day 2018 and International Women’s Day 2018 are being observed on the same day: March 8.

This confluence has provided WKD organisers with the opportunity to highlight the importance of women’s health, the theme being: ‘Kidneys & Women’s Health: Include, Value, Empower, and the intention is to promote affordable and equitable access to health education, healthcare and the prevention of kidney diseases to women and girls around the world.

According to World Kidney Day, CKD affects approximately 195 million women worldwide and is currently the eighth leading cause of death in women, with close to 600,000 deaths each year.

RelatedAre you at the risk of having diabetes? Here's what your health plan needs to cover

Healthy self, peace of mind

It has been said often enough by individuals, doctors, nutritionists, organisations and governments, that the best way to ensure good health is to eat healthy, improve one's lifestyle, and exercise regularly. Obesity has been established as a significant marker of risk for CKD, independent of hypertension and diabetes.

Unfortunately, it sometimes seems as if these warning messages bounce off a brick wall. There’s no denying that hereditary reasons do play a part, as does age, but even these can be combated to a large extent through eating right and exercising often.

Medical treatment is often a major drain on a family’s hard-earned savings. So having health insurance – be it for yourself or for your family – is essential. But even that may not be enough if a major illness, like CKD, affects you or one of your immediate family members.

Fortunately, there's a solution. You could create a medical buffer by investing in a critical illness health insurance (CI) plan for you or your family members. Under an individual CI plan, you have two options:

  1. Purchase a policy for yourself, for which the sum insured is paid out to you alone.
  2. Buy individual plans for each family member by paying a separate premium for each plan.

Alternatively, you can opt for a Family Floater CI plan, where you pay a single premium, for which the sum insured is usually enough to cover all members of your family.

RelatedAll about critical illness plans and how to choose one

Considering the current lifestyles we lead, it is advisable to consider buying a critical illness policy in your early 30s. Why? Buying such a plan when health risks (and premiums) are lower could mean a lower outgoing for you. Saroj Satapathy, CEO, Ideal Insurance Brokers, says, “Considering the change in lifestyle and diseases related to work life and people getting a heart attack as early as at the age of 35, I feel one should buy it early to save on premium and also to rule out facing such one-off, life-threatening situations."

How does a critical illness plan work?

Before understanding what a critical illness plan is, it will be good to remind ourselves about Mediclaim, which is an indemnity plan that reimburses medical expenses – though most policies offer a ‘cashless’ option.

A CI plan, however, is a defined-benefit health insurance plan, meaning the payout is fixed. The insured is paid an amount equal to the sum insured when affected by a serious illness such as cancer or CKD. This money is used to cover the cost of treatment, care, recuperation, and even settle any personal loans that you may have. Regardless of your actual treatment expenses, the insurer pays the entire sum insured, on the diagnosis of any of the critical illnesses covered by your plan. A CI insurance policy can be bought as a standalone policy or as a rider, clubbed with health or life insurance policy. If you can afford it, you can have more than one CI policy. This way, you can file more than one claim if needed, to soften the financial blow that arises from serious medical conditions. However, note that the sum assured will only be paid out if you meet the criteria of the policy. 

RelatedKidney Problems: How much do they really cost?

There are three important features to bear in mind with a CI policy:

  1. CI plans are not intended to replace your Mediclaim policy. Since CI plans don’t cover the cost of hospitalisation, these costs are to be covered by your Mediclaim policy.
  2. The fine print in the agreement can also have stringent terms attached. For example, the diagnosis and supporting tests may need to be undertaken via a medical expert appointed by the insurer, and not your chosen doctor. Failure to do this may result in no payout to you.
  3. CI plans have a mandatory 90-day waiting period before the policy comes into force, but only in its first year. The insured person must also survive 30 successive days after the diagnosis of a critical illness in order to make the claim. 

Related: Why you should consider a cancer insurance policy

What is covered?

Kidney failure is one of the illnesses covered under a CI policy. Treatment for kidney ailments can cost upwards of Rs 20,000 per month, an amount that can put a real strain on the budget of a typical Indian middle-class family. 

A critical illness insurance policy can cover costs related to kidney failure for which dialysis or a kidney transplant is required. 

*Source: Policybazaar, as of January 2017

RelatedHere is how you can prepare to fight diabetes, financially

This World Kidney Day, if you're one of the many women or men who is showing increasing signs of kidney ailments, it would be a good thing to change your diet, improve your lifestyle, and begin exercising. You don’t have to join a gym; a 45-minute ‘power walk’ five days a week will be a good start. After all, the road to good health and your family’s happiness begins with you.


Disclaimer: This article is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as insurance or legal advice. You should separately obtain independent advice when making decisions in these areas.


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