EXECUTIVE director of the Jamaica Cancer Society, Yulit Gordon, is urging insurance companies to offer more affordable critical illness plans to patients, amid increasing cancer diagnoses and the rising costs for treatment or health coverage.
Gordon was a guest at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange last week, held to discuss the organisation’s main fund-raising event —Relay for Life.
“What we want to see more of is more affordable critical illness plans from the life insurance companies. Not everybody can afford a million-dollar plan, or a five-million-dollar plan but they may be able to afford a quarter-million-dollar plan,” Gordon told Observer journalists at the meeting held at the newspaper’s headquarters in St Andrew.
She pointed out that the costs alone associated with diagnostic tests, even before surgery becomes an option, were too expensive.
Gordon explained that cancer accounts for 24 per cent of all deaths in Jamaica.
She said it is expected that this trend will continue as the population ages and as screening becomes more widespread.
The Ministry of Health and Wellness figures indicate that there are approximately 7,000 new cancer cases annually. Three thousand die from the disease each year.
Cancer of the prostate, breast, cervix, large bowel and bronchus remain the five most- prevalent cancers in Jamaica.
Manager of NCB Insurance Company’s Region One, Anntonette Cowan-Palmer shared that the company has seen an increase in the number of claims being presented.
She said up to two months ago, the company was settling 92 per cent of claims (several types of illnesses).
“What we have also seen in recent times is persons who are claiming who had pre-existing conditions, and that prevents them from accessing the funding, and that is something that we want to raise the awareness about. The fact is if persons have pre-existing conditions — so conditions that would lead to or would have caused the critical illness then that precludes them from getting a payout,” Cowan-Palmer.
“…We recognise, even from where we sit as an insurance organisation, that there is an alarming increase if you will in the number of persons presenting with cancers—all forms of cancers. So it’s not just breast cancer or prostate cancer — different types. We believe that awareness is one of the key things that will help Jamaica and Jamaicans to put their best lives forward,” she added.
The Health Ministry has estimated that the cost to the public purse to provide universal screening for breast and cervical cancer for women, and prostate cancer testing for men, would be a combined $3.2 billion annually.
Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton made the disclosure last year in the House of Representatives.