Insurers expect to see more cancer claims after Covid-19 delayed checks

Published Oct 21, 2021


THE insurance industry could see a larger number of cancer claims over the next year as people become more comfortable visiting medical facilities again for their delayed checks and receive their diagnosis, according to Liberty Group, a licensed Insurer of Lifestyle Protector’s chief medical officer Dr Dominique Stott.

She said that due to the delays, it meant that for some, the diagnosis of a more severe stage of cancer was inevitable which would then exponentially impact not only the survival rate but the cost of treatment.

“What many people don’t realise is that even with a medical aid, there are so many other costs associated with cancer treatment – both medical and lifestyle related – especially if the disease isn’t caught early enough,” said Stott.

Earlier this year, Liberty's 2020 Claim Statistics revealed that cancer and leukaemia made up 27% of all claims that year. However, it has been theorised that these numbers were not reflective of the actual number of cancer patients out there, with health industry experts suspecting that the national lockdown and anxiety over contracting Covid-19 had meant that people have postponed the check-ups that could have identified these critical illnesses.

Over the next decade, the sheer burden of cancer in South Africa is estimated to double to at least 160 000 cases a year.

Liberty said this was a sobering number from the civil society organisation, the Cancer Alliance, whose leadership believes that the country would only be able to manage this massive number of cases through improved government budgeting, planning and helping patients understand the multiple hidden costs of a cancer diagnosis.

According to Liberty, the insurance industry believed there were multiple solutions to address these widening gaps, though usually the best option is critical illness cover.

Liberty’s Lifestyle Protector lead specialist, Kresantha Pillay, said that the purpose of critical illness cover was to help cover these additional, unexpected costs. One needed to have an in-depth conversation with a financial adviser to help determine how much cover was needed to maintain a similar lifestyle pre- and post-diagnosis.

Liberty said that determining the extent and length of your treatment plan, how one felt after treatments, how often they needed various tests, how long they may be off work were all questions that could help one understand their cancer journey and hidden costs. The insurer said that, however, the best cost-saver was preventative action.

In South Africa some of the most common cancers are breast and cervical cancer among women and colorectal and prostate cancer for men. All of these forms of cancer were easily detectable if people get regular check-ups. These check-ups do not require invasive procedures, and most are simply blood tests or stool samples that aren’t too costly.

“From around the age of 45, women should be receiving yearly mammograms, and for men, it’s ideal that from around age 65 that they perform annual prostate checks,” said Stott. These age brackets do reduce, however, for people with direct family members who have had cancer, as they have a higher hereditary risk factor. “For cervical cancer, one of the best ways to prevent it in our children is to vaccinate them against HPV (Human papillomavirus), both boys and girls, because HPV is the precursor to the majority of cervical cancers,” she said.

Stott said that while an HPV vaccine may be more expensive than your average flu jab, it could save a family a lot of financial and physical trauma in the future.