Cancer funding debate shows need for illness cover

David Hill.LT32--009 PSB
David Hill.LT32--009 PSB

The debate on the funding of cancer drugs continues, with Health Minister, Edwin Poots, suggesting bringing back prescription charges to finance a cancer drug fund.

While our health service does an excellent job on limited resources, it has been reported that there are 38 different cancer drugs available to patients in England that are not readily availablehere.

It seems unfair that something as simple as the wrong postcode can mean the denial of the latest treatment.

In England, a cancer drug fund costing £200m per annum has been set up and this has helped over 40,000 patients.

So what are the alternatives for patients in Northern Ireland? Well there are two main insurance options: private medical insurance (which I will discuss next month) and critical illness insurance.

The latter is a type of policy that pays out a lump sum on diagnosis of cancer or other critical illnesses. This sum can be used to buy private treatment or drugs anywhere in the world, guaranteeing access to the latest cutting edge treatment. Or, the payout could be used for any purpose such as paying off debts or funding time off work to recover.

Many insurers offer cover, with Liverpool Victoria insuring 59 conditions, Aegon (52 conditions) and Friends Life (51 conditions) providing some of the most comprehensive policies.

Given that there is a one-in-four chance of contracting a critical illness before retirement, this type of cover is not as cheap as life insurance. Cover of £500,000 for a 30-year-old can cost from £50 per month, with some providers adding life insurance for the same amount at no extra cost.

Premiums get more expensive with age, though it is possible to fix the premiums for the term of the policy where the longer the term of the policy, the more expensive the premium.

If considering this form of cover for yourself, it is very important not to wait until health has taken a turn for the worse, as insurers may refuse to provide cover or exclude existing conditions.

David Hill is a Chartered Financial Planner and Independent Financial Adviser at Hills Financial Planning, 15 Agnew Street, Larne. He can be contacted on 028 28276814 or by email: