If you can afford only a limited amount of critical illness cover, make sure you have the most comprehensive medical scheme cover you can afford, as well as income protection cover.
Be careful of taking critical illness cover as an accelerated benefit (early payout) of a disability or life assurance benefit, because this could result in your having inadequate cover for disability or death when you need it later.
If you can afford to take out critical illness cover, make sure you cover yourself against the illnesses that are most likely to have the most serious impact on your life. One in seven men and one in eight women in South Africa will suffer from cancer during their life, the most recent National Cancer Registry statistics show.
Once you have cover for the basics, cover for things such as stage zero cancer is good to have if you can afford it. policies exclude other in-situ cancers, because you have a very good chance of making a full recovery.
Van der Lith says some cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, present only in their more advanced stages, because there are no cost-effective screening methods.
Nicholas van der Nest, divisional director of risk product management at Liberty, says Liberty’s critical illness policies pay for mastectomies required for breast cancer in-situ. However, Liberty’s policies exclude other stage zero cancers, because the purpose of a critical illness policy is to provide for expenses related to adjustments to your lifestyle after a critical illness, and medical schemes would generally pay for surgeries related to stage zero cancer diagnoses.
Although it is true that nowadays most cancers are detected at an earlier stage, it is also true that the residual impact of cancer on a person’s lifestyle is severely reduced the sooner the cancer is detected and treated, Van der Nest says.
You should not rely on a critical illness policy to provide cover for medical expenses associated with an illness, because these expenses should be met by your medical scheme, hospital cash plan and/or gap cover insurance, he says.
The question you need to ask is whether you will have to make adjustments to your lifestyle following a diagnosis of stage zero cancer, Van der Nest says. If the answer is no, it is Liberty’s view that a critical illness contract should not provide cover for the illness.
BrightRock says that its policies include cover for many of the stage zero cancers that Altrisk covers with its add-on benefit.
BrightRock executive Schalk Malan says the benefits are tiered in line with the severity of the condition, so typically the payout you would receive on diagnosis of a stage zero cancer would be lower than the amount for which you are assured.