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Infectious diseases like COVID-19, Dengue and Zika are probably deadlier and more prevalent than most realise. What are some of the top insurance plans that protect against these invisible killers?
The topic of protecting yourself against infectious diseases is currently at the top of everyone’s minds. But much of the attention appears to be directed toward insulating ourselves against the economic slowdown, rather than against the financial effects if we were to personally contract COVID-19.
This is understandable. Everyone is already feeling the economic effects. But the risk of contracting an infectious disease ourselves is something we can easily dismiss as something that only happens to ‘other people’. This is classic optimism bias, also known as ‘it can’t happen to me’ syndrome.
But what does the data say?
- Fun facts & stats on infectious diseases
- How infectious are diseases such as COVID-19, Zika and Dengue?
- What kind of insurance covers infectious disease?
- Comparing different infectious disease insurance plans
Defining infectious diseases
Let’s start with some official definitions. According to the World Health Organisation, infectious diseases are diseases caused by pathogenic microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi; that can be spread, directly or indirectly, from one person to another.
Other than COVID-19, the most widespread culprits are Dengue, tuberculosis, HIV, and diphtheria. The Ministry of Health (MOH) has a list of infectious diseases which are legally notifiable—meaning the doctor is obligated to inform the government if you are diagnosed—which you can find here.
How deadly are infectious diseases?
Infectious diseases occupy three out of the top ten global causes of death (even before the COVID-19 pandemic). If you lumped the three categories together, they would be the second leading cause of death worldwide. In Singapore, despite our top-notch healthcare system, pneumonia, which is caused by infectious diseases, is still the second-leading cause of death, at over 20% of the total.
Another main infectious disease threat in Singapore is dengue. Although not usually fatal, the health consequences can be dire. In 2020, a new viral strain appears to have re-emerged, with 4,000 cases reported in the first three months of the year—double that of 2019.
So, the answer is, they are still very dangerous—even if you live in a developed nation like Singapore.
How infectious are they?
The most common metric to measure infectivity is something called the basic reproduction number. This number—often denoted as R0—tells you the average number of people that will contract the disease from one infected person. The higher the number, the more contagious the disease (obviously).
Because of the recentness of the pandemic, R0 estimates for COVID-19 are not concrete. The WHO estimates it at between 2.0 and 2.5. But some other models put it much higher, at above 5.7! Of course, we don’t need the exact number to know that COVID-19 is highly contagious. For reference, the common flu has an estimated R0 of 1.3, while for SARs it was between 2.0 to 4.0.
So, what the data shows is that many infectious diseases are more contagious than most people think. The next question is, how much of these do most insurance plans cover?
What kind of insurance covers infectious diseases?
When discussing insurance and infectious diseases, most would likely think of integrated Shield plans (IP) and critical illness insurance. And indeed, they are good complements to each other because the latter can compensate for opportunity costs—such as from an inability or reduced capacity to work — via a lump sum pay out, while IPs can cover the actual costs incurred.
On the surface, the combination of both these insurances appears enough to compensate you from any infectious diseases-related costs, both direct and indirect. But there is a gap.
IPs only cover you for pre/post hospitalisation expenses, the hospitalisation itself, and surgery bill, as much as they are excellent upgrades to your very basic MediShield Life. The premiums also increase as you go higher up the age band.
For critical illness insurance, the plan would only cover you for instances of major long-term illnesses such as cancer (early stage may be excluded), neurological diseases and stroke. It does not include infectious diseases (i.e. Dengue fever, Zika, H1N1), something that can be a common misconception for many.
But there is one type of insurance most don’t think about when thinking of infectious diseases coverage: personal accident insurance. Yes, there are personal accident plans out there that also provide strong infectious disease coverage, and at a lower premium than critical illness plans.
Comparing infectious disease insurance plans on the market
Let’s see how the various plans with infectious diseases coverage stack up when it comes to infectious disease coverage.
|Plan Name||Price (SGD)*||Infectious Diseases Covered||Main Benefits (Infectious Diseases)||Other Info|
|NTUC Income Personal Accident||$217||21||Maximum S$10,000 death benefit|
S$100 daily hospital benefit (max 30 days) in the case of COVID-19.
|COVID-19 benefit extension only available for free until 31 August 2020|
|AXA SmartPA Protect+||S$158||Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (children only)||Only death benefit (S$20,000)|
Daily benefit of S$200/day for up to 90 days
|Does not cover medical evacuations, ambulance fees, physiotherapy expenses etc.|
|eTiqa ePROTECT Safety||S$216||22||Inpatient medical expenses (up to S$1,000)|
Death and TPD benefit: S$50,000
Daily hospital benefit: S$50/day (up to 180 days)
|Other than inpatient medical expenses, all other infectious disease coverage benefits are add-ons|
|Sompo PA Star||S$178||17 (does not include COVID-19)||Medical expenses: Up to S$2,000|
Daily hospitalisation benefit: S$50/day (up to 365 days)
|Daily hospitalisation benefit for infectious diseases requires purchasing add-ons|
|FWD Personal Accident Insurance||S$120||24 (including COVID-19)||Death and TPD benefit: S$100,000|
Medical expenses: S$2,000
Physiotherapy / TCM: S$1,000 / S$500
| COVID-19 is considered to be part of the infectious disease coverage in the eye of FWD. Its benefits are valid for the full duration of the policy.|
Annual premium doesn’t correlate to age.
*Annual premium. All prices exclude GST and promotions.
Should you get personal accident insurance to protect against infectious diseases?
As you can see, in some cases, personal accident insurance might be the best choice for covering against infectious diseases. But only you can decide that. All we can do is point to the data showing that infectious diseases are probably more prevalent and dangerous than you think and give you a comparison to make the best decision. Until then, stay safe!
Protected up to specified limits by SDIC.
Note: This is only product information provided. You may wish to seek advice from a qualified adviser before buying the product. If you choose not to seek advice from a qualified adviser, you should consider whether the product is suitable for you. Buying an insurance product that are not suitable for you may impact your ability to finance your future healthcare needs.
If you decide that the policy is not suitable after purchasing the policy, you may terminate the policy in accordance with the free-look provision, if any, and the insurer may recover from you any expense incurred by the insurer in underwriting the policy.
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By Ian Lee
Ian is a former investment banker turned freelance financial and investment writer. He specialises in creating versatile finance content for the attention economy on topics ranging from personal finance and investing to fintech and cryptocurrencies.