The Path to Better Health: The True Impact of Critical Illnesses

In the recently released Netflix series ‘Live to 100’, Singapore was named a Blue Zone 2.0, where a region comprises a high density of individuals over a hundred years old. Alongside boasting the world’s healthy life expectancy¹, the latest SportSG national survey shows that the exercise and sports participation rates of Singapore residents have reached an all-time high² — prompting the question: Is Singapore truly on the path to better health?

The reality: rising cancer cases and treatment costs

Despite cancer cases rising among seniors and those in younger age groups, Singapore faces a significant 74% critical illness (CI) protection gap³. One reason for this may be the commonplace misconception that good health eliminates the need for CI insurance4. The reality is that there is no telling when CI will strike; with the National Registry of Diseases Office having identified that about 1 in 4 individuals in Singapore would incur cancer by the age of 755.

The author Irma Hadukusuma, Chief Marketing and Proposition Officer, AIA Singapore

On a more personal note, my experience with CI has taught me that CI protection is not just necessary for those in older age groups — unlike what is commonly perceived. Growing up, I saw both my parents being diagnosed and grapple with CI in their early forties, within the same year. This taught me that CI can happen to everyone, at any time6. That said, such illnesses are no longer seen as a death sentence with today’s medical advancements. Both my parents are now in their 70s, living active and fruitful lives.

On the other side of the coin, rising costs of healthcare and treatment7 increase the financial burden CI imposes on patients and their loved ones. That is why CI insurance is no longer optional but essential for patients in obtaining prompt treatment and improving their health outcomes. According to the Life Insurance Association (LIA), Singapore’s Protection Gap Study 2022 (PGS 2022), the two top reasons cited by Singapore residents for not purchasing additional CI coverage are the inability to afford an added cost and the high price points of insurance premiums8.

Contrary to popular belief, it need not come with steep financial costs. CI plans, however, can be affordable, especially for those who have more years ahead of them and are healthy.

Misperception towards our own CI protection needs can leave us more vulnerable

As a people-first insurer, we are committed to helping people live Healthier, Longer, Better Lives and bridging CI protection gaps is a critical component. To obtain a better understanding of the situation in Singapore, we commissioned a study to understand the CI needs and preferences of the nation’s residents.

Alarmingly, our CI study found that respondents profoundly underestimate the necessary amount of CI coverage they require9; in fact, most deemed a median CI payout of S$100,000 as sufficient, much less than LIA’s recommended minimum amount of about 4 times one’s annual income10.

Moreover, of those who indicated that their family member had faced a critical illness, 25% indicated that they lacked a CI plan to rely on. These are alongside price-sensitive and value-conscious attributes our respondents indicated, when asked about how they perceive insurance premiums. And these patterns, too, can be observed beyond Singapore. For example, studies have found that, in China, CI coverage significantly declines with age, despite older individuals having a higher risk of incurring a CI11.

Addressing the root cause: providing affordability and value

In view of such findings, we sought to create an affordable solution that would encourage individuals to take up CI coverage. Aside from comprising the Singapore market’s first unlimited reset benefit, our recently launched AIA Ultimate Critical Cover (UCC) plan offers the market-highest coverage of 150 medical conditions, alongside 73 critical illnesses across early, intermediate and major stages. To further ensure their peace of mind, AIA UCC offers level premium rates that do not increase in accordance with age, for long-term protection.

Moreover, as over half of our respondents prefer a policy that offers the flexibility to add-on optional benefits for enhanced protection, we developed the UCC Enhancer rider, which provides additional protection with coverage for five relapse CIs and five catastrophic CIs. Offering customers a comprehensive yet economical CI solution, the annual first-year premium for AIA UCC, with UCC Enhancer attached, starts at S$630 after AIA Vitality discount12 — for a 25-year-old male non-smoker.

The road ahead requires continuous efforts to educate

Creating an affordable insurance plan, however, is only one part of the solution. In narrowing Singapore’s 74% CI coverage gap, there exists a great need to debunk prevailing misconceptions. This, we believe, can be done by ramping up consumer education efforts to increase Singapore residents’ awareness and knowledge of CI.

In collaboration with Havas Village Singapore, we released our five-minute thematic film ‘Confessions Of A Liar’ — which seeks to raise awareness of the need for adequate CI protection, and is amplified through social and digital channels. Conveyed through the complexities of familial bonds, the film showcases the cheeky dynamic between a middle-aged protagonist and his mother through different life phases, including their experience with CI13. Similarly, our work with Our Grandfather Story (OGS) leverages the emotional appeal through a social media video that centres on the sharing of a cancer survivor and caregiver14.

That said, more can be done to bridge Singapore’s CI protection gap and we need to do this collectively.


Contributed by Irma Hadukusuma, Chief Marketing and Proposition Officer, AIA Singapore

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9 AIA Singapore Critical Illness Study. N=300.

Images: AIA Singapore

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