Investing & Money
piece written on the 20th August 2015 by  

Last week I wrote a post on critical illness cover entitled, “Unpicking critical illness cover” and this week I want to continue on the same subject. This is one of those topics that cannot simply be summarised into a single article and we need to look at medical advances and how this supports the need for critical illness cover.

As I’ve been doing work with Momentum I was able to get some commentry from Dr Adela Osman, who is the chief medical officer at Momentum. She said the following, “although sophisticated medical technology and treatments are already available in the health sector, further developments are constantly being made. In fact, there seems to be a shift towards more personalised, more accurate and more rapid diagnostic techniques with the single objective of improving the quality of peoples’ lives”. Further to this she said that throughout the 20th century there have been brilliant people who have revolutionised the medical industry with incredible inventions such as antibiotics and vaccines. This lead to people living longer as death from disease is not as prominent. This lead to a more proactive approach: prevent something rather than “fix” something.

Asking her what other advances have been made in medical technology, she was able to highlight quite a few. She did go into detail about each of them but I want to avoid a really long drawn out blog post, so here are the topics which you’re welcome to further research:

  • Stem Cell Advances
  • Immunotherapy
  • Cardiology
  • Super Drugs
  • Nanatechnology
  • Wearable Technology

I think the big question to be asked is how much would this technology cost and is the diagnosis covered by critical illness? I went on to do some research around the topics above to get some clarity. I find medical aid confusing, my wife and I are pregnant and we had to get a broker to assist us in choosing the correct medical product and even with that there are still topics I do not understand so for critical illness cover I wanted to dig a little.

What I can tell you right off the bat is that these technological advancements are not covered by medical aid. This is really important because I believe most of us think that if we have medical aid we’re covered for anything health related but that’s most certainly not the case. Medical aid covers in-hospital matters and oftentimes the day-to-day expenses, but when it comes to longer term costs such as chronic medication or more comprehensive options, medical aid does not kick in. Here are two scary examples:

  • The long term cost of having a stroke can amount to between R500,000 and R1,000,000.
  • Alzheimer’s can exceed R1,000,000 in lifetime costs.
  • Super drugs used for cancer can amount to R400,000 a year.

Like I said in the previous article, think about that for a second. Can we actually afford to take the risk of not having critical illness cover? I really don’t want to sound like a pushy sales person so I’m not going to go that route, but please do imagine these costs. I really love the word “extension” – Critical illness cover is an extension of medical aid, and an important one at that!

The next question we ask ourselves and pulling everything together is, with all these medical advancements is there a decreasing need for critical illness cover?

One might answer yes, but that is not the case. With all the advancements in new treatments and experimental/alternative therapy critical illness cover has never been so important. Did you know that 100,000 South Africans are affected by cancer every single year and claims relating to all recognised critical illnesses are increasing annually.

Finally, Dr Adela Osman was asked about the risks of not having critical illness cover in place:

She answered as follows: Critical illness benefits allow you to protect your lifestyle by funding the cost of changes to your lifestyle or additional expenses incurred. Not having critical illness cover means that one needs to make severe lifestyle changes that not only impact you but also the people around you in a negative way.

As gloomy as this might be the reality is that, on average, people do live longer lives compare to two decades ago and old age does bring with it critical illnesses like cancers. Also, the cost of living with a critical illness can be extreme because not all expenses are covered by a medical aid. Therefore, the question to ask should not be: When will I become critically ill? But rather, what will the cost be over the long-term.”

Disclaimer: I work with Momentum. With that being said, I have conducted my own research and am not swayed to say something I do not believe.