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Some of the larger Integrated Shield Plan (IP) insurers have increased the coverage offered by their riders for cancer treatments, to offset limits that will be in place on IPs from Saturday.
So far, six of the seven insurers have indicated they will offer a cap of five times the coverage of the national health insurance MediShield Life for IPs that insure for cancer treatment in a B1 or A class ward in a public hospital, or for private-sector care.
Most of the insurers obviously consider this to be insufficient and are thus offering riders that increase coverage, with the highest being 21 times the amount covered by MediShield Life. With the exception of one insurer, the rest have riders that provide at least double the amount the main IP will pay for.
They also provide some coverage for cancer drugs not on the Cancer Drug List (CDL) for which MediShield Life and IPs are not permitted to cover. This amount ranges from $15,000 to $200,000 a year.
Today, most IPs cover cancer treatment “as charged”.
Changes to insurance coverage for cancer were imposed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) with the aim of curbing the spiralling cost of treatment, which has been growing at a rate of 20 per cent a year.
Higher cancer treatment costs drive up insurance premiums. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said that as a result, people “who find rising IP premiums too expensive and unaffordable may choose to drop IP coverage. And if they fall sick, they are left in a lurch”.
Changes were made to MediShield Life on Sept 1, 2022, and will apply to IPs from April 1, including limiting coverage only to treatments that are on the CDL. However, MOH has said that riders may pay for non-CDL drugs.
About 2.9 million, or 70 per cent, of Singaporeans and permanent residents have IPs, which provide them additional cover to that offered by MediShield Life.
IPs and MediShield Life cover 90 per cent of large medical bills, after the patient pays the annual deductible that ranges from $1,500 to $5,250, depending on the ward class and patient’s age.
Two in three IP policyholders have bought riders to cover a large portion of their share of the bills. Unlike previously, riders can no longer cover the full portion of the patient’s share, as MOH mandates that some co-payment by patients is necessary. But this co-payment can be paid with MediSave.
Insurers are still fine-tuning their policies before the April 1 deadline. The three whose riders currently give the best cancer coverage are AIA, Prudential and Great Eastern.
AIA, the insurer with the largest market share of IPs, has introduced a new Cancer Care Booster that it is offering to policyholders of its private hospital plan without the need for underwriting, if they take it up within six months of policy renewal after March 31.
The rider provides a combined coverage of 21 times the amount provided by MediShield Life for cancer drug treatments and 15 times for cancer drug services, which include everything else such as consultation fees, tests and supportive medication such as anti-nausea drugs.
Policyholders will also be covered for up to $200,000 a year for some cancer drugs that are not on the CDL.
The booster will be automatically added to existing riders, though customers may refuse to pay the extra premium – which starts at $23, and goes up to $238 for a 65-year-old – if they do not want it.
AIA policyholders who do not have riders may simply buy the Cancer Care Booster at the same price, within the next six months.
Prudential’s riders provide 20 times the coverage offered by MediShield Life for both drugs and services, and $150,000 a year for some non-CDL drugs. There is no additional premium charge for this.
Great Eastern is, so far, the only insurer whose riders for all its plan types cover cancer services on an “as charged” basis. It covers up to a total of 17 times the MediShield Life limit for cancer drugs, and $120,000 a year for some drugs not on the CDL.
Mr Colin Chan, managing director of marketing at Great Eastern, said it is considering an increase to CDL and non-CDL drug benefits for its riders.
Riders by the other four insurers provide coverage from seven to 15 times the MediShield Life limit for drugs, and $15,000 to $30,000 a year for non-CDL drugs. Some offer no additional coverage for cancer services.
Correction note: An earlier version of this story said AIA introduced a new Cancer Care Booster for its private hospital plan policyholders without the need for underwriting, if they take it up by the end of September. Policyholders will need to take it up within six months of policy renewal after March 31. We are sorry for the error.