The Straits Times
Published on Dec 15, 2012

Income on extending insurance coverage for retirees


MR RONALD Pereira suggested that insurers like NTUC Income could provide health insurance coverage up to at least 80 years of age and include coverage for pre-existing diseases at an extra premium ("Offer better health insurance to retirees", Monday).

NTUC Income does offer lifetime coverage through IncomeShield, a CPF-approved plan that provides integrated benefits on top of those provided by MediShield.

We were the first insurer to do so.

The coverage of pre-existing conditions is an important issue that has received much attention.

Insurance is fundamentally designed to cover against the unknown.

Once a condition is diagnosed, it is no longer an unknown and the likelihood of claims arising from it becomes much higher and may even be a certainty.

By including pre-existing conditions, the cost is shared among all policyholders and this is translated into higher premiums for all.

If insurers load extra premiums only for individuals with pre-existing conditions, it is likely to be prohibitive for many of them.

Conversely, when pre-existing conditions are excluded, premiums are contained but the cost of treatment falls onto the individual, some of whom may not be able to afford it.

The coverage of pre-existing conditions is not just about insurance, but about who should bear the cost of the treatment.

Ultimately, it is for society as a whole, together with governments and insurers, to decide.

An insurer cannot undertake such coverage alone as anti-selection would make this unsustainable.

To guard against this, the Government would have to mandate the coverage of pre-existing conditions by all insurers.

At the same time, health-care providers and all concerned will have to work much harder at containing medical inflation.

While Integrated Shield Plans do not cover pre-existing conditions, the Singapore health-care system does offer affordable health-care choices, including treatment in lower-class wards.

On our part, NTUC Income continues to provide accessible and affordable insurance plans.

Again, we encourage everyone to plan ahead and insure themselves early and when in good health so as to avoid the situation of not having coverage when they develop medical conditions.

Tan Suee Chieh

Chief Executive

NTUC Income