Getting to grips with cancer and your healthcare finances

The many cancer awareness days and months throughout the year are a reminder of just how prevalent this insidious disease has become in our modern lifestyles.  There is hardly a family that has been untouched by a cancer diagnosis of a loved one or close friend during their lifetime.  There are over 200 different types of cancers affecting one in four South Africans and there is absolutely no discrimination across age, gender or social class when it comes to who is affected.  Every year, over 100 000 South Africans will hear the words ‘you have cancer’, and six out of ten will survive their diagnosis, according to CANSA. 

“Protecting yourself against the impact of a health crisis is all about taking preventative action.  Living as healthy a lifestyle as possible will lower your risks for cancer, while going for regular annual check-ups lead to early detection and treatment which has a far better prognosis than a cancer that is only detected at an advanced stage.  It’s also about sound financial planning to ensure that should you ever face a health crisis, you’ll be able to focus all your energy on your treatment and recovery, and not have to worry about managing the potential financial hang-over that comes with a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” says Martin Rimmer, CEO of Sirago Underwriting Managers, a gap insurance provider underwritten by GENRIC Insurance Company.

Surviving the financial challenges

Managing the physically and emotionally demanding treatment regimen and returning to health should be your top priority.  Yet studies show that almost a third of cancer survivors experience financial burdens and significant out-of-pocket costs and shortfalls associated with cancer treatment in their healthcare funding strategies. Another significant factor is that many people are having to downgrade their medical scheme options during these tough economic times, which means a commensurate reduction in benefits, including possible reduced cover for cancer treatment.

“Earlier detection and treatment mean that the prognosis for surviving cancer is now better than ever.  However, the cost of funding the treatment can be a major debilitating factor, even if you are a member of a registered medical scheme.  While medical schemes typically cover the cost of certain cancer treatments as a Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB’s), depending on what option you are on, your costs of treatment might not be covered in full and you could face onerous out of pocket expenses, co-payments and shortfalls.  Certain medical schemes might also only fund certain treatments partially like biologicals, if at all.  If it’s a matter of life and death and you need these treatments, some medical schemes will allow you to upgrade your option immediately, but in the instances where you are not able to upgrade and your medical scheme options does not allow for the appropriate cover, you could be forced to sacrifice your life savings or future financial security to gain access to these treatments,” adds Rimmer.


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