Personal Finance

Critical illness: Do you have a cover just for life-threatening conditions?


Critical Illness Insurance is for everyone as critical illness can affect anyone and is no respecter of economic, social, or cultural background. FILE PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

It is the rainy season, and I will be the first to admit that there are days I have been caught unawares; when the sky seemed so clear, without a trace of rainclouds, only to step out and be met by a heavy downpour.

Like many Kenyan men, I don’t carry an umbrella around with me, even in seasons such as this, very much leaving everything to fate.

I know the story is different for our women as most of them will have a little umbrella somewhere in their handbags, meaning they are better prepared to deal with any eventuality.

Talking about umbrellas, it has been alleged by some wise people that insurance is like an umbrella. I think it is time this allegation was promoted to fact because it holds lots of water.

During the dry season when the sky is clear and the weather fair, most of us are not known to remember where the umbrella is kept or care if they have one at all.

But, as sure as the sunrise, the rain does come upon the land, sometimes with little warning, and when it does everyone suddenly remembers they need an umbrella but don’t have it.

Over time, both the government and the insurance industry have encouraged Kenyans to take up insurance to shield them in times of loss.

Many solutions have been developed to cater to the diverse and unique needs of the market. 

One of those is Critical Illness Insurance which is designed to provide cover when faced with life-threatening conditions.

Such conditions include cancer, heart attack, stroke, open heart surgery, aortic surgery, major organ transplant, accidental brain damage, kidney failure, paralysis, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), Parkinsonism, connective tissue disease: rheumatoid arthritis, coma, muscular dystrophy, among others as will be defined by the policy.

For emphasis, this is not your standard medical cover. This cover applies to the critical illnesses covered under the plan.

It would not cover what I would describe as normal illnesses such as malaria, typhoid, pneumonia, or (now that we are in the cold rainy season), the flu, among others.

Important to note, however, is that it pays the policyholder upfront a lump sum and does not limit the patient to a panel of hospitals.

Like with other health plans, premiums are based on the benefit amount and the age of the applicant.

Who should take up this plan?

Critical Illness Insurance is for everyone as critical illness can affect anyone and is no respecter of economic, social, or cultural background.

We have seen young people, including children, battling critical illnesses, and have also seen some elderly who have been lucky to remain healthy and free of critical illnesses.

In terms of official health statistics, however, it is sensible to say that the risk of critical illness increases with age.

This means adults above age 40 are at a greater risk of developing a critical illness than adults under 40.

Past 40, most of the adults have families of their own, other dependents like parents or siblings, are actively working or running businesses and contributing immensely to the economic well-being of the nation and they are also leaders whether at a community, societal or corporate level.

One adult put down by critical illness can throw many families off-balance, especially so in our African setting where one economically active person is looked up to by extended family members.

The upfront lump sum paid to the policyholder can help in the effective management of critical illness, keep children in school, and generally ensure that the family maintains a decent standard of living without draining life savings.

One final thing. I know we are all pressed with many competing needs, especially in these hard economic times.

But as someone observed, “Put your money where your mouth is.” There are investments we make in life that safeguard dreams and aspirations.

Imagine sitting back one day looking at your family and reflecting on your life, and with peace of mind you whisper, “I am glad I did this!”

Mr Theuri is the CEO and Chief Principal Officer, of Britam General Insurance.