Complex to offer insurance cover for hospice care

Insurers are able to provide services at an affordable premium because they leverage risk pooling, where the healthy subsidise the unhealthy.

However, what would happen if insurers are obliged to cover hospice care, and these patients outlive their prognoses ("More insurers should cover hospice care" by Ms Maria Loh Mun Foong; Tuesday)?

No one can predict the course of a serious illness, which means there is no limit to the number of days a patient can receive hospice care.

And if there is no limit, how would insurers price the premium? Would patients accept it if the premium is too high?

Furthermore, what is covered can be wide and subjective.

Would the plan cover 24-hour medical services, say, by nurses trained in pain management? How about social work and counselling services or chaplain services to provide emotional support?

Then, there is the cost of medical equipment and supplies, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Taken together, the complexity of hospice care makes coverage hard to determine, unlike the usual hospital inpatient and surgical-cum-ward coverage.

Let us keep in mind that hospices focus on providing comfort to the terminally ill, not finding a cure for patients.

Francis Cheng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2015, with the headline 'Complex to offer insurance cover for hospice care'. Print Edition | Subscribe