A City News editor’s shock experience with her insurance claim following her cancer surgery awakens her to “knowing the state of her flocks.”
I bought my very first insurance policy at the age of 22 when I started working, because my mother had contracted breast cancer at the age of 49, which genetically put me at risk. While my mother, who was a nurse, had an “A” Class pension plan, I knew I would have no such luxury should I ever get breast cancer. I knew I would have to be covered for hospitalization and have an illness cover that would give me a payout so that I can take time off work without pay to fully recover. My mother rested at home for one year after her first mastectomy before she resumed work, taking on a less hands-on, more supervisory role.
Back in those days, there weren’t many policies that covered for critical illness. Prudential had one of the first life policies that included a crisis cover, and that was what I bought, at the princely sum of S$139.50 a month (a lot considering my first take-home pay was S$900 after CPF).
I had for many years prided myself on the fact that I was insured for nearly S$1 million, and that I was covered for just about any mishap in life. But in June this year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Confident that my three critical illness policies should come in handy, I went ahead and had my surgery done. But after I got home from hospital and a friend from Prudential helped me submit the claim, I received a letter from the company to tell me that, according to their definition of cancer, I did not have cancer.
Reading the fine print after my failed claim, I realized that the Life Insurance Association defines critical illness (breast cancer) as Stage 2 and beyond. I had, thank God, caught my cancer very early, at Stage 0 or ductal carcinoma-in-situ. I realized two things at that point: one, I was wrong to assume my three critical illness policies covered me properly; and two, I did not know what DCIS or Stage 0 cancer was till I got it.
I can only thank God that apart from my Prudential policies, I engaged an independent financial planner in 2003 who insisted that I beef up my hospitalization plans. I bought an Aviva Shield Plus 1 which supported my Medishield so I stayed in a Class 1 ward, had all my scans and tests paid for up to 90 days pre and post surgery, plus, I received a daily allowance for all the days post-surgery that I could not work.
I shared my experience on my blog, A Clean Breast Of It, and discovered, through the many comments that came from around the world, that this clause in critical illness plans is not unique to Singapore. There is an alarming number of exclusions in these plans all over the world. The reason, as one friend from Prudential explained to me, is that there would be too many claims if the policies covered early stage cancers.
Had this been explained to me when I bought my policies, I would have tried to make sure at least one of my policies was a woman’s health policy. To be honest, many of them only came into existence the last five years, by which time I was already spending over S$2,000 a month on insurance and could not afford another $500 plan.
But for women (and husbands/sons/fathers) reading this story, I urge you to make sure you get covered with a women’s health insurance policy, such as Great Eastern’s PinkLife and Critical Illness Early Payout Plan (which covers early stage cancers), AIA’s Women Of Wisdom (which claims to have comprehensive coverage for women’s health), and Prudential’s PruSmart Lady. It’s too late for me, but if you are in good health, invest in your future now. (Nobody’s paying me to say this, by the way.)
Don’t assume—as they say, “assume” makes an “ass” of “u” and “me”—that the policies you bought five, 10, 20 years ago still work for you. Know the state of your flocks, as the Bible says. You may need to update or supplement your coverage, and that of your family. Do your homework, and make your agent work for his or her money! Ask, ask and ask the hard questions. A good agent will take pains to answer all your questions till you are satisfied. And a good agent will stay in touch not just to sell you another policy, and he or she will fight for you when tragedies happen.
As for me, I thank the Lord every day I am alive. I may not have S$50,000 in cash to live on now, but I have my family, my church, my friends, my City News team, and a new chance every day to make a difference to this world.
Tan’s blog A Clean Breast Of It is at http://acleanbreast.wordpress.com.