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India has a long way to go in cancer insurance even as disease increases annually: Sanjay Tiwari

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Wednesday, November 29, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Penetration of cancer insurance is fairly low in India. A large portion of India is under-insured by this product, although the awareness levels for cancer insurance is increasing, said Sanjay Tiwari, executive vice president & head – product management, Exide Life Insurance.

There are over 100 different types of cancers that can affect any part of the body. While the probability of being contracted by cancer is increasing, the cost of treating cancer has consistently seen a rise in recent times, he added.

Indian Council of Medical Research reports 17.3 lakh new cases and over 8.8 lakh patients are likely to succumb to the disease by 2020. Around 71% of all cancer related fatality occurs in the 30-69 age-group.

“High treatment cost can wipe out one’s savings if the disease persists. In such cases cancer insurance play a very meaningful role. It covers one against the expenses arising out of the disease at a reasonable premium. We have seen our customers benefiting from this product. At times, we have even heard our customers exclaiming that they would not have been able to afford the unexpected out-of-pocket expenses,” Tiwari told Pharmabiz in an email.

Advances in healthcare has increased the cancer survival but treatment costs is expensive. Critical illness policies provide patients with a lump sum benefit, and cover them only for severe conditions. Now this is where the year-old Exide Life Sanjeevani makes insured patients financially protected even from early stages of detection and has been successful in covering over 10,000 people since launch, he said.

The plan is distinct from standard critical illness policies as it provides a fixed lump sum benefit on diagnosis of heart/cancer related condition as per severity of the illness. It waives future premiums and also allows to make a claim in addition to any existing health insurance policy. The benefit is paid as per the severity of the disease. According to the company it is first of its kind health insurance plan covering heart and cancer.

Moreover, this plan covers only if one is diagnosed of cancer or heart related illnesses. The individual receives a fixed benefit on diagnosis as per the severity of the illness. If the life insured does not suffer from any of the illnesses covered under the policy during the policy coverage period then no benefit is paid out, he said.

Cancer insurance is relatively new in India compared to global markets. However cancer as a dreaded disease emerged less than 50 years ago and insurance products came in recently. Global products are designed with a focus on lifestyle management and have preventive features like regular check-ups for early detection.

There are challenges for cancer insurance providers because costs of managing the disease can vary significantly between hospitals. This is where multi-stage coverage comes in handy as early stage cancers are also covered. Therefore carefully evaluation is needed on whether the product covers different stages of severity. If the product covers only severe/late stage, then the adequacy of coverage could be in question depending on the type of cancer being detected. This would also increase the out of pocket expenses that one might incur at such stages, stated Tiwari.


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