Big four illnesses are getting bigger, says Old Mutual

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The 2016 claims statistics, released by Old Mutual, show an increase in the big four severe illnesses, specifically coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), in the past four years. The so-called big four diseases include cancer, stroke, heart attack and CABG.

Of the R566 million of severe illness claims paid in 2016, 81% were for the big four severe illnesses, with cancer being the highest at an alarming 64%. Old Mutual paid out an overall total of R9.28 billion in claims in 2016, more than R1 billion from the previous year 2015.

The 2016 statistics highlight how important it is for South Africans to seek sound financial advice to ensure they are adequately covered in case of the unexpected, says Jaco Gouws, protection product head at Old Mutual.

Gouws explains that CABG claims have increased significantly since 2013, from 5% of claims in 2013 to 9% in 2016. Cancer claims contributed to more than 52% of all severe illness claims in the last five years. “The remaining two of the big four severe illness claim events – heart attacks and strokes – made up 20% of the severe illness claims in 2016,” he says.

It has again emphasised the need for financial advice for an updated financial plan, he notes. “This will prevent the ostrich mentality, where we tend to stick our heads in the sand and hope the problem will disappear.”

Another concerning statistic is the young age of many claimants – with the youngest being 19 years old. The need for adequate cover applies to all ages and is not something limited to older people – we are all vulnerable,” says Gouws. “Empowering people to understand disability and illness as something that affects all South Africans every year is a key focus area for us. It is critical to get relevant, professional financial advice throughout your life journey to ensure you are adequately covered.”

“With advances in science and technology, our chances of surviving a critical illness or accident are higher, but so too are the costs associated with the lifestyle adjustments, unexpected costs or rehabilitation needed after an accident,” says Gouws.  This also means that it is critical to seek out a provider who has a consistently high claim payout ratio, which means they look for reasons to pay claims, rather than reasons not to.