Why you should consider a cancer insurance policy

There are over a 100 types of cancers and any part of the body can be affected and anyone can fall victim to this deadly disease. Make sure you're protected.


By Sanjeev Sinha

Have you been diagnosed with cancer? Nobody would want this even in their worst dreams. The fact, however, is that today's lifestyle has increased the chances of getting cancer. Worse, there are over a 100 types of cancers and any part of the body can be affected. Further, anyone can fall victim to this deadly disease.

In fact, a recent study conducted in Britain by the British Journal of Cancer finds that the lifetime risk of getting diagnosed with cancer has increased over time - from 38.5% for men born in 1930 to 53.5% for men born in 1960. The study concluded that the lifetime risk of cancer for people born since 1960 is greater than 50 per cent now.

In India alone, about 10 lakh people are diagnosed with cancer every year and another six to seven lakh die of it. By 2035, these numbers may almost double to 17 lakh new patients and 12 lakh deaths per annum, according to a special research paper on cancer in India published in Lancet Oncology journal sometime ago.

Moreover, while the probability of getting cancer has increased substantially, the cost of treatment has also gone up many-fold in recent years. In fact, treatment costs now have the potential to wipe out a common man's entire life saving. Worse, the cost of treating cancer abroad can be several times that incurred in India, according to a Times of India report.

This is the reason why comprehensive medical insurance against cancer has become the need of the hour. Although most health insurance policies available in the market today cover almost all major critical illnesses, including cancer, but these policies generally pay only for inpatient hospitalization and for treatment at hospitals in India. They do not cover the entire cost of treatment. Also, the policy amount may not be enough as the common man generally does not go for a health policy of more than Rs 5 lakh. Such limitations may be overcome by opting for critical illness (CI) insurance which is designed to help cover medical expenses that your normal health insurance will not cover.

"Comprehensive medical insurance (usually floater policies which cover all your family members) provides insurance to take care of a wide range of medical problems. However, the insurance cover provided by such policies comes with sub-limits on the amount payable in different situations. Critical illness insurance addresses this problem. The purpose of a critical illness cover is to help pay for expensive treatments required for specific diseases. Additionally, CI insurance is much cheaper than comprehensive medical insurance plans as only specific illnesses are covered," informs Gaurav Roy, co-founder & head-products, BigDecisions.com.

However, despite many additional features and plus points, such as the option of bigger coverage of, say, Rs 15 to Rs 50 lakh, critical illness insurance plans also have some limitations.

Related: Medical treatment in India. Can you afford it? [infographic]

"The biggest drawback is that such plans cover cancer only at an advanced stage. While the plan may cover your first heart attack and entry stage kidney disorders, and even pay for dialysis, it will pay for cancer only if the malignant tumour shows uncontrolled growth, with invasion and destruction of normal tissues-an advanced stage," according to an ET Wealth report.

Also, a regular critical ailment plan provides only a lump-sum benefit and does not waive future premiums payable by the insured. Such things can be taken care of by a dedicated cancer care product.

Thankfully, there are a couple of cancer care insurance products available in the market today. Existing cancer insurance policies in the market include Cancer Care Plus by ICICI Prudential and HDFC Life Cancer Care. What is more, AEGON Religare has just launched its iCancer Insurance Plan.

Let us take a look at the concept of cancer care plans and some of their common features:

"Cancer insurance is a special case of critical illness policy. It provides cover if you're ever diagnosed with cancer. Generally, a cancer-specific policy covers a number of costs associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment, including hospitalization, radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, among others," says Roy.

Simply put, comprehensive cancer insurance products cover most forms of cancer, at both early and advanced stages, that affect both men and women. Thus, these products provide the insured financial and mental security in the case of cancer diagnosis.

Some of the common forms of cancer covered by such insurance plans include breast cancer, ovary cancer, lung cancer, stomach cancer, hypolarynx cancer and prostrate cancer. Usually skin cancer is not covered. However, in most other types of cancer, money is payable at various stages of diagnosis, treatment and surgery, including minor, major and critical stage.

For instance, if the life assured is diagnosed as suffering from a cancer of defined severity, a percentage of the policy sum assured, subject to applicable limits, is paid in lump sum. Usually, for the purpose of paying the cancer benefit, the disease is divided into different stages of severity. The insurance payout depends on the stage of the cancer and claims previously admitted under the policy. Some policies also offer free regular cancer check-ups during the entire duration of the policy term.

Some cancer care products also give premium waiver benefit in certain cases. As per this waiver benefit, once a claim under the major stage cancer benefit clause is approved, all future premium payments for the policy are waived for the rest of the policy term. However, it should be noted that all these benefits are payable only if all due premiums have been paid and the policy is in force.

So far as eligibility is concerned, for most cancer-specific policies, the minimum entry age is 18 years and the maximum age is 65 years, while the minimum sum assured allowed is Rs 5 lakh and the maximum Rs 50 lakh. Renewability of the policy after 65 years of age varies from policy to policy.

Another advantage of cancer care plans is that they are reasonably priced compared to other types of health plans. Also, the premiums paid are eligible for tax benefits under Section 80D of the Income Tax Act. However, generally there is no death, maturity or surrender benefit payable under such plans.

There are some exclusions too. For example, as discussed earlier, skin cancer is usually not covered. Also, no claim is payable in respect of any cancer resulting, directly or indirectly, from or caused by or contributed to by sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS or HIV. Further, no claim is payable in respect of any cancer resulting from any congenital condition, any pre-existing condition, or nuclear, biological or chemical contamination, among others.

Industry experts are of the opinion that a cancer-specific product may be helpful if you believe that due to environmental or other reasons you may be at risk of developing cancer. In normal cases, critical illness plans may be a better option as they provide coverage against a wide range of diseases, the experts add.

Source: Economic Times


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