Don't let cancer endanger your financial wellbeing

3 Feb 2017
As one in four South Africans are affected by cancer, it becomes increasingly important for individuals to know the financial implications of an illness and the costs associated with the fight back to good health.

This is according to Jaco Gouws, Old Mutual’s Protection Product Head, who was speaking in light of World Cancer Day on 4 February, an initiative that seeks to raise awareness and education about the disease. “Thanks to advancements in medical science, early detection and access to private healthcare, six out of ten cancer sufferers will survive the disease, however this does come at a cost.”

He says that while the first line of financial defence against the impact of cancer is belonging to a good medical scheme that will ensure sufficient health cover once diagnosed, there will always be additional, unexpected costs that even the best medical aid won’t cover. “Unexpected costs such as medical aid shortfalls, co-payments, alternative healing, travel costs and medical equipment can quickly escalate while you are receiving treatment.”

According to statistics from Old Mutual GREENLIGHT, in 2015, R 3.99 billion was paid out in claims, and the “big four” illnesses accounted for 85% of the severe illness claims. Cancer was the largest proportion of these at 57%, followed by heart attacks at 20%, coronary artery bypass graft at 14%, and strokes at 9%.

Gouws says that when most people consider the need for severe illness cover, many tend to adopt the attitude that ‘it won’t happen to me’. But he says that Old Mutual statistics revealed that the bulk of the serve illness claims are in the 35 to 64 age group, meaning everyone is vulnerable. “This attitude leads to underinsurance and unnecessary financial distress when illness happens.”

To prevent having to use your savings or incur debt in order to afford the best treatment, Gouws says that a financial plan should include severe illness protection which pays out a lump sum to help with any unexpected costs.

“The increasing rates of cancer and other lifestyle diseases highlights the importance of having adequate illness protection . The guidance of a professional financial adviser can make all the difference. Battling cancer is challenging enough, let alone the need to worry about your financial needs and those of your dependants,” says Gouws.

Gouws shares a few practical points to consider when preparing financially for a severe illness, such as cancer:

  • If there’s a history of severe illness in your family, a good idea would be to have regular medical checks so if an illness is detected it can be diagnosed early. An early diagnosis with the right severe illness cover in place can have a big impact on your recovery.
  • We always think that a life changing event will happen to someone else, but in reality we face moments every day that can change our lives. Your plans for the future will remain just that, until you take action.
  • Disability cover provides you with a regular income should you not be able to work, potentially even just for a few days. It is advisable to contact a financial adviser to assist in deciding whether a lump sum pay-out or monthly payments would be best suited to your specific circumstances.
  • Sadly, not everyone survives a dread disease. Final expense benefits can ensure that your family has access to funds within 48 hours of submitting a claim. Dealing with the death of a loved one is distressing enough, but having immediate access to funds can prevent unnecessary distress.
  • Speak to a financial adviser about life, severe illness and disability cover. It’s wise to ask your adviser to do a personal analysis and provide recommendations for your unique circumstances.