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Unpacking the true cost of living with and healing from cancer

31 October 2023 FNB
Hlengekile Jita

Hlengekile Jita

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), cancer is the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020, or nearly one in six deaths.

Notably, a report by the National Cancer Registry of the Department of Health and Stats SA’s mortality and causes of death data dating from 2008 to 2019 shows that diagnoses and deaths related to cancer are on the rise in South Africa, with the most diagnosed being female breast cancer, cervical, prostate, lung, hematological, and pediatric cancer.

Living with cancer often carries a significant emotional burden. The constant uncertainty, fear, and challenges that come with treatments can weigh heavily on a person's mental and emotional well-being. The Groote Schuur Hospital for breast cancer outlined that a study conducted in 2020 estimated that the cost of chemotherapy in the public sector arrived at a whopping R15 774 as the average care cost per patient per session.

Hlengekile Jita, Product Manager, FNB Insure, says, “Apart from being a traumatic illness from a health perspective, cancer can also be a financially crippling experience for the patient and their family. The financial burden associated with cancer includes medical fees, treatment, travel fees, and sometimes loss of income due to missed workdays, especially if one does not have access to additional financial resources to help support themselves and their loved ones during this challenging time.”

“The Critical Illness Cover offers a lump-sum pay-out should you be diagnosed with certain critical illnesses, such as cancer. This benefit helps you cover unforeseen expenses that can arise with certain serious illnesses, such as paying for medical specialists, high treatment costs, 24/7 care, or any other lifestyle adjustments you may need. Our critical illness cover protects you against an extensive range of noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, heart attack, coronary bypass, surgery stroke, dementia, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, etc.,” said Jita.

In addition, when hospitalised, instead of us focusing on getting better, don’t we often end up worrying about those everyday expenses that continue to build up in the background because of us having to be hospitalised? Expenses like travel costs for the family to and from the hospital, paying someone to help look after the children at home, takeouts for those long days, especially after the patient’s been discharged and doesn’t feel like cooking, or even things as simple as paying for the hospital parking tickets.

The Health Cash Plan was designed with the intention of helping lighten those financial stresses we have when having to unfortunately be hospitalised. “With this plan, when you have been admitted into hospital for more than 48 hours, you will get a cash payout for each day you’re in hospital, calculated from the very first day, and these cash payouts are for you to use towards whatever you might need. In addition, you will also get up to R150 000 if you are diagnosed with cancer, stroke, heart attack, and five other defined critical illnesses to help alleviate the financial stress as much as we can.” says Jita.

One thing that surprises a lot of people is that medical aid is not always able to fully cover the medical bills, and we often get a rude awakening when we’re told there’s an outstanding medical bill. What happens when your medical aid doesn’t cover the full procedure? Often, we dig into credit to cover the cost, which isn’t sustainable. To help lighten this burden, the Gap Cover caters to the family providing you with one affordable family premium for you and up to four family members. Bridging the gap between the expensive cancer treatments and what your medical aid can pay.

While the above insurance solutions may assist you and your loved ones from a financial point of view, we cannot overlook the emotional strain that cancer has on one and their family. “A cancer diagnosis requires exceptional emotional and physical strength, so upweighting your health efforts and focusing on overall wellness, i.e., physical, emotional, psychological, and clean dietary living over this time, is immensely important," adds Dr. Peter Bond, Consultant Chief Medical Officer.

In addition to upweighting our health efforts to prevent or fight critical illnesses such as cancer, being financially independent is indispensable for today’s household. Investing in insurance and securing your life and health, as well as providing a financial cushion even after retirement, is equally important.

“When it comes to protecting your health, income, and loved ones, prioritising key insurance solutions for potential financial protection and relief during an unforeseen illness is key. The question should always be, do I have the right cover, and is the cover enough to cover all medical expenses that may arise? That is where you will need to get advice to guide you on the right cover and amount required for your specific circumstances,” concludes Jita.

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