Health insurance coverage can make a difference
Guardian Life official offers advice as nation observes Prostate Cancer Month
Guardian Life insurance advisor Marcia Browne speaking about the benefits of health insurance at last week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange. ()Photo: Naphtali Junior

Young Jamaican men are being urged to buy critical illness health insurance policies to cushion the astronomical costs of care and treatment that come with devastating illnesses, such as prostate cancer.

Guardian Life Insurance Advisor Marcia Browne says a policy valuing $1.5 million may be small, considering treatment costs, but it could make the difference between some protection, and no coverage whatsoever, for men who find themselves stricken with prostate cancer the most lethal cancer affecting the population.

"No matter how small it is start small, because the cost for you to take care of a treatment is going to be far greater than you trying to be proactive and looking at a plan from now. The treatment is very expensive but at least it is something versus not having anything at all," Browne stressed.

She was among a panel of medical specialists at last week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange who outlined the grave realities of prostate cancer among Jamaican men, and the importance of early and consistent screening. The experts were speaking against the background of Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, which is being highlighted by the Jamaica Cancer Society through screening-promoting activities.

Browne advised that if people purchase critical illness plans at a younger age, the premium payments are less expensive.

"A lot of young persons will say it's not necessary for me to buy a critical illness plan, and I say 'what if down the road something happens?' You can purchase this plan, and they will be paying that same $1,000 for years if they don't choose to increase it [although] they can increase it to a coverage that makes sense, when they are able to afford to pay more," she explained, advising that her company's critical illness plans can be purchased within the ages of 18-60 years, which means a policyholder can access that plan even at an older age.

Although older people pay more, there are different types of critical illness plans, which allow clients between the ages of 50 and 60 to possibly afford insurance, based on their disposable income, she pointed out.

"We have a plan, for example, which covers 10 critical illnesses which is less expensive than the one that covers 23, so it's quite possible," she said, noting that the minimum for these policies are lowered to give access to those who need the benefit.

Meanwhile, Browne dismissed the notion that whenever it is time to pay out, beneficiaries have a hard time accessing benefits, or are denied their claims.

"We have a lot of claims that come in yearly as a matter of fact, the claims have increased over last year and there are a lot of persons who have benefited from those claims. Sometimes persons use that as a [reason] not to purchase the insurance out of fear, or they just don't want to even express that they probably don't have enough money," she told the Exchange.

Browne said oftentimes potential clients, who are hesitant or sceptical, gain a different perspective when insurance agents explain that in certain cases where others had a difficulty accessing benefits, it could be related to issues such as the client not providing required documents.

"So insurance is not a scam. There are more people who benefit from it than those who probably don't get the benefit at the end of the day," she asserted.

Guardian Life, the National Health Fund, and the Jamaica Urological Society are collaborating with the cancer society to provide free screening for hundreds of men throughout the month of September, at several locations across the island. The drive is part of a push to encourage more men to screen for prostate cancer, starting at the recommended age of 40.

Prostate cancer treatment is very expensive, therefore having some health insurance coverage is better than not having anything at all.
BY ALPHEA SUMNER Senior staff reporter saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

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