Insurers customise plans for the elderly

New products cover home and hospice care, and accidents such as fractures and burns

The elderly can now claim insurance payouts for home care services as insurers become more responsive to the growing silver market here.

Demand for home care services has grown significantly as the population ages and at least two insurers here have come up with plans customised for seniors.

From this month, the 240,000 policyholders of Great Eastern Life's Total Health plan are eligible for a home care health benefit that allows them to claim up to $5,000 if they are discharged from hospital after getting say, cancer or stroke, to be cared for at home.

The amount is meant to cover treatment expenses at home, including visits made by doctors, nurses or physiotherapists, incurred within 30 days of discharge.

Great Eastern Life is the only insurer to offer this benefit and a hospice care benefit under an Integrated Shield plan in Singapore. The insurer said it decided to introduce such benefits to meet the needs of a rapidly ageing population.

Those aged 65 and older form 13.1 per cent of the citizen population. Just a decade ago, in 2005, the figure was 8.8 per cent. By 2030, Singapore will have 900,000 people aged 65 and above.

"We recently enhanced our Integrated Shield Plan to provide coverage for home care in addition to inpatient hospice care so that our customers have a choice to receive care in the comfort of their home or in a hospice.

"This should also help to alleviate the challenge of overcrowding in our hospitals," Great Eastern's chief executive Khoo Kah Siang told The Straits Times.

The other insurer here that has anticipated greater demand from older people is NTUC Income. Three years ago, it was a pioneer in introducing a basic accident insurance plan called SilverCare to cover risks faced by the elderly, such as fractures or burns. Last year, it gave those aged 66 and above a 10 per cent discount for the plan.

It provides coverage for hospitalisation, caregiver training and home care or home modification expenses, on top of the usual payout.

To date, 5,000 older people have taken it up and NTUC Income has paid out more than 300 claims. On average, each claim is about $600.

"The claims are often made for medical expenses due to trip and fall related accidents," said Ms Annie Chua, senior manager at NTUC Income. "SilverCare is a popular product, and we have observed a strong take-up, which shows that Singaporeans appreciate the need for such a plan to protect themselves or their parents."

Dr Ng Wai Chong, medical director of the Hua Mei Centre for Successful Ageing at Tsao Foundation, said there is a great need for insurance coverage for home care services, especially for seniors who are not able to care for themselves or have multiple medical conditions.

He said: "Ideally, insurance should also cover psychological and social care, including support for caregivers, and for the long term."

• Additional reporting by Toh Yong Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Insurers customise plans for the elderly'. Print Edition | Subscribe