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Sunday September 5, 2010

Many buying insurance up to age 100 due to high medical costs

PETALING JAYA: Rising medical costs have prompted more Malaysians to take up multiple health insurance policies, with some even extending their cover up to the age of 100.

A check with several major insurance firms showed good demand from the working population on extending their medical cover until at least the age of 80.

Industry experts attributed the growing demand to healthcare costs escalating at between 13% and 15% annually, longer life expectancy and more patients turning to private hospitals to avoid long queues at public hospitals.

As most employers do not provide post-retirement medical coverage, more working people aged between 25 and 50 are taking up private medical insurance policies to avoid exhausting their savings should they be stricken with a major illness.

Prudential Assurance Malaysia Bhd chief product and marketing officer Heng Zee Wang said someclients were buying more than one medical plan to ensure they had “sufficient cover all the way.”

“Each medical plan comes with an annual claim limit. If a person is hospitalised and the bill exceeds the existing limit, the patient will have to pay the remaining amount from his own pocket if he or she does not have a second policy,” he told The Star.

Heng said more insurance companies were now offering policies that covered a longer period as Malaysians were living longer due to improved living conditions and medical advancement.

“The average life expectancy of a Malaysian male and female was only 55.8 years and 58.2 years respectively in 1957. Today, it is 71.9 years for men and 76.9 years for women.

“By 2050, the average lifespan is expected to increase to 77 years for men and 82 years for women. This upward trend presents a need for insurance companies to provide medical plans that would cover the policyholders beyond the current life expectancy,” he said.

Heng cited as an example, the firm’s PRUhealth policy which was sold as a rider to its investment-linked insurance plans and provided comprehensive coverage up to age 100.

A 70-year-old client who buys the PRUhealth plan will pay about RM480 a month as premium (for cover expiring at age 80), or RM611 for cover expiring at the age 100 based on the lowest plan PRUhealth100.

For those aged between 26 and 30, the premium for the plan with cover expiring at age 80 starts from RM94 a month.

MAA Healthcare and Medical Insurance assistant vice-president (accident, health & group) Chong Chee Yoong said they had received “very good” response towards their guaranteed renewable medical policy until the age of 80.

“Malaysians are finding private medical treatment to be more expensive,” he said, adding that medical policies now contributed 15% of the company’s new business.

“By setting aside some reserve funds in the form of insurance premiums, policy holders when faced with a claim on critical illness, will not need to deplete their bank accounts, EPF savings or sell off assets to pay for medical treatment.

“It’s good to buy when one is healthy and have a medical savings plan in case of a rainy day. When the insured retires, this is the age that the health condition will already have changed and treatment will be needed most,” he added.

An insurance consultant with AIA concurred, saying it was important to take up an insurance policy when one was in good health. “This is because you may not be able to buy it when you need it most,” he said.

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