India has a growing number of young, working individuals. Their lifestyle is one that can be categorised as having 4 “Rises”. Rising aspirations, Rising incomes, Rising consumption and Rising stress.

With their fast paced professional lives going hand-in-hand with negligence towards healthy dietary habits and lifestyle, it is hardly a surprise that there has been a steady increase in the occurrence of heart and cancer disorders. In fact, these disorders together account for over 50% of casualties among Indians. Medical research suggests that India has the highest rate of cardiac arrests1 in the world and approximately 2 lakh heart surgeries are conducted every year. Every 13th new cancer patient is from India2 and cancer cases are expected to rise by 25%3 by 2020.

While these statistics of heart and cancer disorders is very concerning, the silver lining is that medical research too is evolving at a rapid pace. These disorders are no longer considered untreatable. The key lies in getting the right treatment at the right time, however, this can be a costly affair. This is due to the fact that both heart and cancer ailments are chronic in nature, characterised by long duration of medical treatment, frequent visits to the hospital and a lengthy recovery period.

A look at the financial commitment of treating these disorders can give a fair idea of the financial outflow that a family needs to be prepared for. A heart attack leading to hospitalisation and a bypass surgery could cost approx. Rs.8-10 lakhs, while in case of cancer, if one has to undergo chemotherapy it could cost over Rs.15 lakhs, depending on the number of chemotherapy sessions, apart from hospitalisation expenses.

The situation gets complicated if the patient happens to be the earning member of the family. The immediate impact of the illness could lead to financial losses as the patient loses the ability to continue with a regular professional life, which can be a setback for the family.

There is no doubt that health insurance is essential for everyone. However, on an average, individuals have just Rs.2-3 lakhs of health insurance which is very low, given the cost of treatment. Moreover, a health insurance plan that takes care only of hospitalisation related expenses is not adequate for the treatment of heart and cancer disorders which require long-term medical treatment pre and post hospitalisation. Heart and cancer insurance products are very affordable today, e.g. for a premium of Rs.100/-4 per month an individual can get a heart cover of Rs.10 lakhs or a cancer cover of Rs.20 lakhs.

A few life insurance companies offer products that specifically provide financial cover and upfront payment upon being diagnosed with heart or/and cancer disorders. Receiving the payment upfront allows the individual to choose the best course of treatment to be followed without having to dip into the corpus set aside for other financial goals viz; child education, buying a home, retirement etc. 

Regular health checks, exercising and proper dietary habits can go a long way in helping to live a disease-free life. However, life is unpredictable and no one knows what lies ahead, it is always better to be prepared.

The key to winning the battle against heart and cancer disorders is early detection, timely medical intervention and having the necessary financial resources to pay for the treatment. With new age insurance products now available, individuals should ensure that they are adequately covered against medical conditions such as heart or cancer disorders. With the advent of the digital platform, purchasing suitable and adequate insurance cover against heart and cancer disorders is no longer a challenge and can be completed in a matter of minutes.

(The writer is Executive Director, ICICI Prudential Life)

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