The importance of HEALTH insurance

Godfrey Heron
Contributor

I REMEMBER thinking as a child growing up that I had a very healthy family. I never knew any close family member that died and my grandparents on both sides of our family were alive and very active. We had no family history of any type of major hereditary illnesses and I thought we were blessed indeed as I sympathized with those persons who had lost family members prematurely.

Then in 1992, my older brother, fresh out of UWI’s medical school and brimming with enthusiasm on his nascent career, started to exhibit behavior which was unusual (even for him). During his internship In Trinidad, we received reports that he was misplacing patient charts and that he was forgetting where he placed items, We decided to conduct an MRI to check out whether everything was really in order. He was diagnosed with an inoperable malignant brain tumour. My parents were devastated. Two years later my brother died.

SECOND DEATH

My father was never the same after my brother’s death, but we all soldiered on. Then in 1999, he complained of feeling excessively tired. He was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes. When he started to get jaundice, we never suspected what lay ahead. He was later diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, an extremely fast progressing cancer. Within three months of noticing the jaundice my father had died.

My mother was now left to carry on and pull the family together. However, she too succumbed to cancer in December 2008 after a lengthy battle, She had developed breast cancer which metastasized to the bone.

In the space of 15 years, half of my family had developed cancer, who knew? There was no history of cancer in my family as far back as anyone could remember, and I should point out here, that the development of the cancer should be juxtaposed by the fact that my mother was extremely conscious and supportive of eating natural health foods, No red meat, no sweet, sugary drinks and most importantly, no miniature plantain tarts and patties we all used to enjoy in our early childhood before she found the book. Eat Right to Keep Fit.

I have pointed out these pivotal points in my life not to garner sympathy, but to point out the need for both health insurance and life insurance to give us peace of mind against the vicissitudes of life.

REALITY CHECK

My father’s illness was very swift and my brother didn’t require extensive hospitalization, But with my mother’s illness, the first reality check was the payment for titanium rods to replace her vertebrae that had been weakened by the cancer.

The cost of the rods, at that time was about $600,000 which didn’t include the cost of surgery or hospital fees and we hadn’t even begun to discuss radiation fees or chemotherapy yet.
I remember like it was yesterday, haggling, no pleading is more like it, with the health insurance company to cover  the rods. The life lessons here are that:

  • it is very important when you take out a health insurance policy to ensure that it will give you comprehensive coverage for the major illnesses covered.
  • Know what you are covered for, and don’t get caught in the trap of ‘pre-existing conditions’.
  • You also need to be aware of your co-payment. That is the amount that you have to pay as against what the health insurance company will pay in the event of a claim. For example, the typical health Insurance policy has an 80:20 split for most types of claims. In those particular cases, you would be required to pay 20 per cent of the potential claim.

INTERNATIONAL HEALTH POLICY

One type of health policy offered by Caribbean Assurance Brokers Limited makes claim payments in United States dollars, covers near 100 per cent of hospitalization fees and offers maximum

benefits of up to US$2 million (JMD$260,000,000) per year. Note that these are not lifetime benefits, but annual benefits, All this, with no deductible locally, depending on the type of plan. It is well established that one of the leading causes of bankruptcy is the onset of serious illnesses and the cost of the care involved.

Remember that Illness can strike at anytime. Regardless of the type of health insurance that you take out, always remember to read your policy document. It may be tedious, but you really don’t want to be caught in a situation where you are being denied your claim due to a condition not covered under the policy.

Godfrey Heron is the IT & Operations Manager
of Caribbean Assurance Brokers Limited.