The word “rising” is very often associated with our country. Rising economy. Rising world power. Rising prosperity levels and so on. This is something that all of us feel proud about and justifiably so.

When it comes to individuals, there are 3 “rises” which all of us look forward to – Rising aspirations, rising incomes and rising consumption. However, there is a fourth rise which comes along with the other three rises – rising stress. With our fast-paced professional lives going hand-in-hand with negligence towards healthy lifestyle habits, 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 per cent 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 per cent3 by 2020.

While these statistics are a cause of worry, the silver lining is that medical research too is evolving at a rapid pace. The key lies in getting the right treatment at the right time. However, since both heart and cancer ailments are chronic in nature, characterised by long duration of medical treatment, medical treatment can be an expensive affair.

A look at the approximate costs of treating such illnesses gives an estimate of the financial outflow that a family needs to be prepared for. A heart attack leading to hospitalisation and a bypass surgery could cost approximately Rs 8-10 lakh, while if one has to undergo chemotherapy it could cost upwards of Rs 15 lakh, depending on the number of chemotherapy sessions, not taking in account the post-hospitalisation expenses.

The situation gets complicated if the patient happens to be the bread winner of the family. The impact of the illness means the loss of ability to continue with a regular professional life. The inability to work and consequent loss of income only adds to the financial woes.

There is no doubt that health insurance is necessary. However, a generic health insurance plan that only takes care of hospitalization expenses is not adequate for the treatment of heart and cancer disorders. Studies reveal that on an average individuals have approximately Rs 2-3 lakh of health insurance, which is insignificant as compared to the estimated cost of treatments.

Today, life insurance companies have products that provide financial cover to individuals in case of being diagnosed with heart disorders or cancer. These products, provide a lump sum amount on being diagnosed with the ailment – without having to be hospitalized or starting the treatment. Receiving the payment upfront allows the individual to choose the best course of treatment to be followed. Individuals do not have to dip into the savings accumulated for other financial goals such as child education, buying a home, retirement, etc.

These Heart and Cancer plans are very affordable. For example, for a premium of Rs 100 per month, an individual can get a heart cover of Rs 10 lakh or a cancer cover of Rs 20 lakh.

Regular health checks, exercising, and maintaining proper dietary habits can go a long way in helping you to live a disease-free life. But life, as all of us know, can be unpredictable. And the best way to deal with unpredictability is to be well-prepared.

1 Source: World Health Organization

2 Source: National Cancer Institute (US Dept. of Health and Human Services)

3 Source: Indian Council for Medical Research

The article was published in Business World magazine.

About The Author

Mr. Puneet Nanda is the Executive Director at ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company Limited.

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