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How to Choose a Critical Illness Plan for Elderly Parents

We all want our parents to have long lives, and the advances in medical technology are making that possible. However, long lives do not always mean good health. In fact, the Ministry of Health found that Singaporeans live a greater proportion of their lives in ill health, despite being among the world’s longest-living people1.

With every year that passes, our parents are at greater risk for progressive age-related illnesses. In case this happens, a critical illness (CI) plan can preserve their quality of life while they seek treatment and recover.

Choosing a CI plan for seniors requires a different thought process. You need to take your parents’ current health into account, as well as your family’s health history. Here are some things to look out for when choosing a critical illness plan for elderly parents:

How to Choose a Critical Illness Plan for Elderly Parents
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Maximum age of entry

How old are your parents? You want to make sure they are younger than the maximum age of entry, which is the latest your parents can apply for a CI plan. This is generally set to 70 years old, which means you should start the application process well before their 70th birthday.

If your parents are older than the maximum age of entry, they will not be able to apply for the CI plan.

Pre-existing conditions

Are your parents in good health? Take advantage of it by getting CI insurance now, as premiums are generally lower for people who have no illnesses.

Most Singaporeans over the age of 60, however, are living with three or more chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis2. If your parents are already dealing with chronic illnesses, they have what insurers call “pre-existing conditions” – an illness or injury that exists before they get covered by an insurance policy.

Chronic health conditions require lifelong medication and increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, or stroke. With inflation, the cost of managing these conditions will rise throughout your parents’ lifetimes, making insurance coverage more necessary. However, high medical bills also explain why most CI plans are out of reach from people with pre-existing conditions.

But don’t let that discourage you from getting your elderly parents covered. Today, innovative CI plans such as Manulife’s Critical SelectCare is available even to those with existing health conditions - such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol or diabetes with no need for a medical checkup, as long as the applicant is between 40 to 70 years old and pass the underwriting questions.

Pre-existing conditions
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Do your parents have an active lifestyle? Are they smokers? Do they eat healthy, balanced meals? The kind of lifestyle your parents have is key to deciding between a single-pay or a multi-pay plan.

A single-pay CI plan is exactly what it says. When you get diagnosed for a selected critical illness, you get one lump sum payment. You can use the lump sum however you wish, ideally to cover medical expenses and make up for income lost while recovering from the illness. After the lump sum payout, the plan terminates and will not cover you for any illnesses moving forward.

Multi-pay CI plans offer several lump-sum payouts for different critical illnesses, without the plan getting terminated. The payout amount varies depending on the illness, and there may be a waiting period for claims between illnesses.

Healthy and active elderly parents may be fine with a single-pay CI plan, as their lifestyle makes them less likely to get diagnosed with a second critical illness. Some plans even provide a partial refund of the total premiums paid if they do not make a claim by the plan’s end date.

Otherwise, consider a multi-pay CI plan if your parents smoke, get little exercise, or have diets that put them at risk of contracting multiple health conditions. Look for a plan that offers continued protection for relapses and subsequent or different critical illnesses.

Early stage vs late stage coverage

Not all critical illnesses can be prevented by a healthy lifestyle. Find out if you have family members who suffered from hereditary age-related conditions like colorectal cancer3, dementia4, or Parkinson’s disease5. These conditions are progressive, meaning they happen in stages and get worse over time.

Knowing about your family’s health history will help you decide if your parents need an early stage CI plan or not.

In general, basic CI insurance provides a lump-sum payout when the illness is at the intermediate or advanced stages. For example, if your mother gets diagnosed with severe dementia while on a basic CI plan, she will receive the payout, as this meets the condition of the plan. However, the basic CI plan will not give a payout if she gets diagnosed with early-stage dementia.

That is where early critical illness cover comes in. It plugs in the gap where you catch the disease at an early stage, but not the one that is covered by the basic policy. Although the chances of recovery are higher at the disease’s early stages, treatments generally cost more. Having a payout for an early-stage diagnosis helps you tide over the recovery period without making a dent on your savings.

If your family has a history of hereditary illness, consider giving your parents both an early-stage CI plan and a late-stage CI plan. The advances in medical technology increase the chances of early detection and the payout from an early-stage CI plan puts treatment options within reach.

Early stage vs late stage coverage
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Affordability

The last thing your parents want is for you to struggle to pay the bills because you are handling their CI premium. It is important to choose a plan that covers all their needs while making minimal impact on your cash flow.

In general, single-payout CI plans and late-stage CI plans are the most affordable. These straightforward plans provide a good financial safety net if your parents have a low chance of getting multiple critical illnesses.

Higher coverage will mean higher premiums. You can expect to pay more for CI plans with early stage coverage, as there are more treatments involved at the disease’s initial stages. A multi-pay plan will also have higher premiums because it provides coverage for two or more critical illnesses.

We can help you find the right CI plan for your parents

Before you start looking at CI plans, get to know your parents’ lifestyles, the health conditions they are currently dealing with, and your family’s health history. This tells you what illnesses they will potentially need coverage for, and how likely they are to get ill. Finding the right CI plan for your parents becomes simpler once you know this.

We are here to help if you are not sure where to get started or if you have questions about CI plans for seniors. Reach out to us today!

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Content Sources
1 - Lim, J. (2019, June) Singaporeans Living Longer But Spending More Time in Ill Health: Study. Retrieved from Today Online.
https://www.todayonline.com/singapore/singaporeans-living-longer-spending-greater-proportion-time-ill-health-study
2 - Choo, F. (2019, May) Proportion of Older Adults with Multiple Chronic Diseases Surges. Retrieved from The Straits Times.
https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/proportion-of-older-adults-with-multiple-chronic-diseases-surges
3 - Lim, J. (2019, December) 5 Health Conditions Singaporeans Are Especially at Risk of Having. Retrieved from Health Xchange.
https://www.healthxchange.sg/wellness/health-work/five-health-conditions-singaporeans-risk
4 - Lim, S.C. (2019, December) Dementia and Delirium: Know the Difference. Retrieved from Health Xchange.
https://www.healthxchange.sg/head-neck/brain-nervous-system/dementia-delirium-difference
5 - Khalik, S. (2015, April) Ageing Singapore Sees More Cases of Parkinson’s Disease. Retrieved from The Straits Times.
https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/health/ageing-singapore-sees-more-cases-of-parkinsons-disease