Why It Matters

Cover for home, hospice care

A patient at Assisi Hospice. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Healthcare costs are a major concern for many of us, as any number of surveys indicate.

With the demand for palliative care expected to double in the next five years, many are calling for insurers to provide cover for such care.

Most hospitalisation plans do not cover hospice care so terminally ill patients prefer to remain hospitalised but, in reality, hospices offer better care at a significantly lower cost.

Hospices are meant for people who are likely to have six months or less to live. They provide support during a terminal illness and focus on comfort and quality of life, rather than cure.

So far, two insurers offer some cover in their "riders", not in the main plans.

Great Eastern's (GE) hospice care cover provides a cash benefit of $300 a day for up to 90 days in a 12-month period. It should cover the daily ward charges of between $200 and $300 at a hospice.

GE's new home healthcare benefit offers $100 a day for up to 30 days after discharge from a hospital, community hospital or hospice care facility, capped at $5,000 per policy year.

AIA has a post-hospitalisation home nursing benefit at $500 a day for up to about six months, capped at $5,000 per policy year.

Home-care benefits help cover the cost of nurses, doctors and physiotherapists visiting patients at home.

It's likely that hospice and home-care benefits will be offered by other insurers over time. But it may not be necessary to buy the cover. People could self-insure or they may already own other plans like ElderShield, critical illness or disability income cover that provide payouts for specific conditions.

These cash payouts will go a long way in easing the cost of hospice and home care. There are also subsidies for in-patient hospice stays and Medisave may be used for up to $200 a day.

But the current difficulty is typically that of getting a place in a hospice rather than paying for it.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2015, with the headline 'Cover for home, hospice care'. Subscribe