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How to survive post-operative financial stress

Today’s medical technology has progressed to a stage where many critical illnesses, such as heart attack, stroke and cancer, no longer result in death. However many survivors suffer greatly from the financial crisis incurred by the high cost of non-medical expenses such as home modification, extended therapies, travel, fam­ily routine changes and loss of employment income.

One type of insurance policy that has gained wide popularity in recent years is Critical Illness Insurance. It was devised by a pioneering heart surgeon who was concerned that the post-operative stress caused from the financial burden associated with recovery, was kill­ing his patients.

Unlike long-term disability coverage that will pay out only in the case of protracted recovery periods, critical illness policies will pay a lump-sum non-tax­able benefit, usually 30 days from the onset of any one of certain specified medical conditions, diseases or ailments. No extended convalescence or proven disabil­ity is required to collect, only the fact of diagnosis is required. The funds can be used for any purpose — to supplement lost income, take early retirement, pay off a mortgage or other debts or defray the expenses associated with medical treatments, recovery or re­habilitation. The covered diseases typically include such things as a heart attack, cancer (including stage A prostate & colon cancer), paralysis, Multiple Sclerosis, major organ transplant, coma, loss of speech, stroke, Parkinson’s, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s, severe burns, deafness, coronary bypass, blindness, loss of limbs, oc­cupational HIV injury and Motor Neuron disease.

These policies are finding favor particularly with older workers, who are enjoying their prime earning years at the very time that, statistically, they are more prone to serious illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and stroke.

But don’t be fooled into thinking critical illness cover is only for older people. Testicular cancer in men aged under 35 is one of the highest risk categories. For­tunately this type of cancer, if caught early enough, is one of the easiest to treat without any adverse after­effects.

The medical statistics are enlightening: in 1996, 1.5 million people in the US filed for personal bankruptcy. The most common reason given for financial failure was not compulsive spending with credit cards — it was personal illness!

Each year 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart at­tack, 75,000 are under the age of 40. Strokes account for a further 400,000 people each year and 3,000 peo­ple are diagnosed with life-threatening cancer each day. Six months of chemotherapy can cost more than $40,000 and many cancer treatments can range from $100,000 to $250,000.

How many people do you know in your circle of family, friends and colleagues that have had a criti­cal illness or know of someone that has? Don’t leave things to chance — if you do not already have some cover in place, get advice and organise cover now. These illnesses often happen when you least expect it or can afford it. You are your most important asset so make sure you protect yourself.