In a 2022 report, the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) estimated that the number of cancer patients in India will cross a staggering 29 million by 2025, highlighting the serious threats the disease poses. Of the various types of cancers, lung cancer is the most common in males and breast cancer in females.
Recognising the danger of the disease due to its often late detection, the medical community, and other stakeholders observe October as breast cancer awareness month to encourage people to adopt healthy eating habits and lifestyles for its prevention.
Although cancer can develop at any life stage, studies show that it is more common in old people. In a report on its website, the National Library of Medicine in 2022 revealed that more than half of breast cancer cases are diagnosed in females over 60. It also predicts that cancer cases will likely increase with people’s increasing life expectancy.
Against this backdrop, a cancer insurance plan can help you financially if you or someone in the family succumb to the disease. These days, insurers offer separate cancer insurance policies besides the standard plan with “critical illness” coverage for diseases like cancer.
Dr. Santosh Puri, Senior Vice President, Health Product & Process, Tata AIG General Insurance Company Limited, says, “There is a standardized definition of ‘Cancer of Specific Severity’, which excludes certain types/ stages of cancer (like carcinoma in situ, benign, pre-malignant, borderline malignant etc.). However, insurers are allowed to relax this definition and offer extensive covers. Tata AIG Criti-Medicare covers all stages of cancer including early stages.
What To Consider Before Buying A Cancer Insurance Plan?
Waiting Period: Your medical insurance policy may not cover critical illnesses like cancer from day one. Generally, insurance companies have a waiting period for such diseases. There could be varying waiting periods depending on the company. So, find out the waiting period of the policies before picking one; a low waiting period will always be favourable to the policyholder.
S. Dheeraj Krishnaa, head of wellness and telehealth at Star Health and Allied Insurance, says that the waiting period for its new policies is 30 days. He says, “Any diagnosis (that) happens after 30 days is covered.” Krishnaa says that a few companies also offer insurance coverage to recovered cancer patients. But the waiting period could be 24-48 months for them. However, no company offers coverage if the disease is active.
Coverage: Generally, cancer policies cover hospitalisation, chemotherapy, medication, and surgery costs. So, prospective buyers should ensure that the policy covers these costs. They can also enquire about the coverage for pre- and post-hospitalisation expenses to the insurance providers as cancer needs periodic hospitalisation and can involve consultation, diagnostic costs, etc.
Co-Payment Terms, Premiums, & Sum Insured: Insurers may keep the premiums low if there is a co-payment clause. In the co-payment option, the policyholder pays a part of the treatment costs and the rest by the insurer. As cancer treatment involves high costs, a low premium policy with a co-pay clause may not be beneficial. Before buying one, thoroughly compare and study the policies for premiums, sum insured, etc.
Krishnaa says, “Most companies offer cashless (payment option) with no co-payment. However, there are a few policies with co-payment (options) specifically aimed at senior citizens. They have to pay 10-20 per cent in co-payment. But, most of them offer 100 per cent cashless.”
Cover Period: As cancer may resurface after treatment, the buyer must ensure the insurance coverage is longer. Those aged between 16 days and 75 years can buy a cancer insurance policy. All health insurance products in the market can be renewed every 1-3 years for a lifetime.
Puri says that whether to opt for a separate cancer insurance plan or a standard policy with critical illness coverage will depend on the requirement, such as the cover for hospitalisation and other expenses, existing health insurance, self and family medical history, financial liabilities, place of residence, etc.