A ‘help when you need it most’ pol­icy

In­sur­ing your­self and your fam­ily against se­vere ill­ness is in­creas­ingly pru­dent

Sunday Times - - Money - By CHAR­LENE STEENKAMP

● Claims sta­tis­tics re­leased re­cently by three large life as­sur­ance com­pa­nies are enough to make any­one think twice about not en­sur­ing that they have ad­e­quate cover against se­vere ill­nesses, par­tic­u­larly cancer.

Med­i­cal ad­vances and a fo­cus on healthy liv­ing have ex­tended our lives, and with in­creased longevity comes in­creased risk of con­tract­ing a se­vere ill­ness and sur­viv­ing it, and even the pos­si­bil­ity of con­tract­ing an­other se­vere ill­ness.

Cancer is one of the top causes of se­vere ill­ness claims and is con­stantly ris­ing, ac­cord­ing to Karin Muller, CEO of San­lam In­di­vid­ual Life.

“In 2010 cancer made up 36% of all se­vere ill­ness claims. In 2017 it was the cause of 59% of ad­mit­ted claims at San­lam,” she says.

Cancer was also the main rea­son for se­vere ill­ness claims at Mo­men­tum and Lib­erty last year, mak­ing up 38% and 24% of all these claims re­spec­tively for the two as­sur­ers.

Sober­ingly, it is not only older peo­ple who are sub­ject to se­vere ill­nesses or con­di­tions.

Henk Mein­t­jes, the head of risk prod­uct devel­op­ment at Lib­erty, says cancer af­fects all age and so­cial groups, mak­ing up 16% of all claims for those in their 20s and 30s, 21% for young par­ents, 26% for es­tab­lished providers and 25% for empty-nesters. The top three can­cers were breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men and colon cancer in both gen­ders, he says.

Life­style choices

Ac­cord­ing to Mo­men­tum’s head of mar­ket­ing for life in­sur­ance, Ge­orge Kolbe, the in­ci­dence of se­ri­ous ill­ness in chil­dren spikes in the first few years of life and drops sig­nif­i­cantly af­ter that, be­fore it in­creases again in adult­hood.

Leukaemia re­mains the most preva­lent cancer among chil­dren in South Africa.

Mo­men­tum’s claim sta­tis­tics for 2017 show that 54% of child crit­i­cal ill­ness pay­outs were for cancer, fol­lowed by 34% for ill­nesses re­lated to the ner­vous sys­tem, Kolbe says.

Mo­men­tum paid out 25 crit­i­cal ill­ness claims for chil­dren last year. The youngest child to have a claim lodged on their be­half was a five-month-old baby.

Dr Tha­bani Nk­wanyana, Lib­erty’s med­i­cal of­fi­cer, says se­vere ill­ness due to ge­netic dis­or­ders is more com­mon in the early ages and ill­nesses re­sult­ing from life­style tend to oc­cur from age 30.

Stress and in­ac­tiv­ity linked to busy mod­ern lives are lead­ing to a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in se­vere ill­nesses in younger peo­ple, he says.

While there is noth­ing you can do about con­di­tions you in­herit, you can help avoid se­vere ill­nesses with the usual good life­style choices — don’t smoke, main­tain a healthy weight, ex­er­cise reg­u­larly and eat healthy, Nk­wanyana says.

Both men and women are at risk of se­vere ill­nesses, with San­lam re­port­ing that 45% of all se­vere ill­ness claims were for women and 55% for men.

Most of the se­vere ill­ness claims ad­mit­ted for men were for cancer, at 43% — of which 12% was for pros­trate cancer.

In the case of women, most of the se­vere ill­ness claims ad­mit­ted were for cancer, at 77%, of which 31% was for breast cancer and 5% for me­lanoma, Muller says.

Di­a­betes

Lib­erty’s break­down of claims by gen­der shows that cancer ac­counted for 20% of claims for men and 32% for women.

Ac­cord­ing to Nk­wanyana, chronic con­di­tions, Pic­ture: Alais­ter Russell such as asthma, di­a­betes and high blood pres­sure can also progress to se­vere ill­nesses as they be­gin to af­fect the or­gans.

For in­stance, poorly man­aged asthma can lead to chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary dis­ease.

Lib­erty pays out for di­a­betes once you re­quire in­sulin in­jec­tions, and may pay a fur­ther claim if di­a­betes leads to poor vi­sion.

Long-term prob­lems with high blood pres­sure, di­a­betes and choles­terol also man­i­fest as se­vere car­diac and car­dio­vas­cu­lar ill­nesses.

A se­vere ill­ness pol­icy can be used to cover the cost of child­care, for ex­am­ple, in the event you are se­ri­ously ill.

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