The Vampires Strike Back (And Some Umpires Too)

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No, that’s not the vampire who called me. I wish!

The last 48 hours, my mobile has kept ringing. I am almost thankful my Blackberry Bold is on its last legs and the battery zaps out around 12 noon if I’ve engaged in more than 30 minutes of talk time.

The callers: friends or friends-of-friends who are insurance agents, determined to set me straight after reading the New Paper article yesterday about my failed claim for DCIS under my critical illness policies.

“You should have read the fine print” was quite a common (exasperated) response. “Everybody knows DCIS is not covered.”

I guess I am not everybody, then. And if you walk down the street and ask 10 people, if you can get 1 who can tell you what DCIS is, I’ll buy you two pints of Haagen Dazs Caramel Biscuit And Cream.

Other priceless responses from insurance agents included:

• “But this other plan covers you for DCIS what.” (erm, hello, that’s not the plan my agent sold me despite knowing my risk for breast cancer. That’s my whole point. Why did 3 agents sell me the same thing knowing I should buy something that covers me for every stage of cancer? And now that I have had DCIS and a mastectomy, can you get your other plan to cover me? If not, shut up.)

• “DCIS where got mastectomy one? No need lah, chemo and radiation can already, for DCIS and Stage 1.” (Okay lah, you get cancer across 5cm of your breast tissue and tell me if you want to take the risk of chemo vs removing the d*** cancer from your body.)

• “I can’t speak for Prudential but if you had bought from my insurance company you would get blahblahblah…” (Where were you when I was draining my hardearned cash into dud policies?)

But to their credit, some friends who are agents were upset for me, and gave me some great tips, including:

• Don’t surrender my policies yet. Surrendering is a sure way of losing out because the break even point is something like 15 years or above. I am only considering cashing out one policy, but we’ll see how it goes, now that I have sincere advice, I am not rushing into anything just yet.

• Make sure my hospitalization plans (Medishield Plus) are auto-renewed. Any lapse in payment will make your policy null and void. And don’t be too confident that your GIRO/CPF “automatically” went through. My friend Karen (from Great Eastern) gave me an example of a CPF-deducted plan in which CPF did not automatically transfer the annual premium to the insurance company, and this lady who had cancer could not claim for her hospitalisation.

• Looking out for my children’s plans. Make sure your children are covered for hospitalisation. My Three Bs are all included in my Medishield Plus policies. I will be going through them with my financial planner to make sure they’re water-tight.

But the call I didn’t expect that came, and made me glad, was my woman Prudential agent. She explained that the terminology that doctors use in their post-surgery reports is the only source upon which decisions are made for payouts (or not). I’m not 100% sure what she means, but I’ve sent all my lab and histological reports to her, and she’s making an appeal.

Even if it doesn’t happen, I am just happy she made the effort to call me, touch base, make the effort to repeal the rejection.

But she was the only one out of my three agents who were notified by Prudential that my claim was rejected, to do this.

So, not to sound sexist, but if you are a woman reading this, I would suggest that you buy your life/health policies from another woman. Only a woman can truly comprehend the severity of losing a breast. Not that male agents cannot be sympathetic, but they would not feel for it the way they would if their client had testicular cancer.

I’m grateful for all the knowledge that has come flooding into this blog. I hope whoever reads it will gain something from it, pass it on, link this to a friend’s FB/Twitter/email, and make a difference.

While you are in good health, make sure your insurance coverage is really sufficient. It’s worth the while to do your homework, and I hope this blog will be effective “required reading”.

Sh*t, There’s A Hole In My Coverage. Make That A Manhole.

Today is probably a really bad day to be blogging because I’ve got me a major case of the blues. So forgive me if this sounds super-ranty, because I am super-pissed.

This sort of fury often brought on by finance-related matters. Yesterday I received a letter from Prudential, with whom I spend nearly $1,000 every month, telling me that I don’t have cancer.

Yep, you read it right. Apparently, according to the experts at Prudential, I lost a breast and went through a 12 hour surgery for… not cancer!

Blows your mind, huh? I’m still trying to find pieces of my brain under the couch after this staggering news.

Truth is, three of my many Prudential policies cover me for critical illness. However, when I signed with my agents, I never imagined that cancer at Stage 0 would be considered by my insurance company that I “do not have cancer”. In fact, there is every chance a woman buying a life plan with critical illness coverage has NO IDEA there is a stage called DCIS, and that her insurance company does not consider it cancer.

So my “imaginary cancer” won’t allow me to claim any of the $200,000 (or more) that my critical illness plans entitle me to.

Please, if you are a woman reading this, go and see your insurance agent and tell him/her/it that you want coverage for EARLY STAGE CANCERS. Make sure your policy document states that you will get 25% or however much for ductal carcinomas-in-situ or Stage 0 breast cancer. To my understanding these are the 2 policies that offer them now:

1. Great Eastern’s PinkLife will pay out 25% of your sum assured for carcinomas-in-situ. Not great an exchange for a breast but at least it’s not nothing. If I had bought that instead I would have $50,000 to allow me to take a break from work for some months, while still being able to pay my monthly bills and kids’ tuition fees and groceries…

2. AIA’s Complete Critical Illness Cover pays out 25% on early critical illnesses (I am assuming DCIS breast cancer is one of these).

Please please please, I beg you, don’t get royally scr*wed like me. Make sure your critical illness plan actually covers you, and you are not just happily giving your money away to insurance companies for their CEOs to buy 10 luxury holiday homes across the world.

Do not be a sucker like me. Please.

Call your insurance agent or financial planner today and make sure, by hook or by crook, you are covered by some rider, anything, for early stage cancers.

I’ve been researching cases of insurance companies who don’t pay out for DCIS breast cancers. Looks like it’s a worldwide disease. The insurance companies are the disease, I mean.

I lost a breast to this threat.
My histological report finds the cancer cells ARE malignant and aggressive, and most certainly were life-threatening — or I wouldn’t have needed the mastectomy.
I just happened to discover it before it became an uncontrollable growth.

Tell me how this is not cancer.

In my Googling I found this BBC clip. It makes me so, so sad that all around the world, women like me are shortchanged by insurance policies that they pay through the nose for.

I have paid close to $32,000 for one policy and over $25,000 for the other.

This clause in Critical Illness contracts NEEDS TO CHANGE. DCIS is cancer (and in my case, malignant) and it should be awarded accordingly and automatically. Sadly, Prudential covered its backside in its small print, which I had no understanding of. It makes me sad that they expect me to have Stage 1, or 2, or 3 or terminal cancer and chemo and radiation before I qualify to make a claim. Losing a breast is forever. Surely that must count for something.

For women in their 20s or 30s reading this — if you have had a grandmother, mother, sister, aunt, female cousin contract breast cancer, make sure you get yourself proper coverage (see box above).

A close friend who is a decorated journalist was horrified to hear it was likely I could not make a claim on my critical illness plans. “They should change that,” he said (after uttering “Wah lau eh, sh*t!”). “I can write a story on that.”

He should. I think I will be calling him soon. Also I am relooking at my Prudential policies now — maybe it’s not worthwhile carrying on. I should get my money back. Pity the surrender value is so pathetic. Bet that CEO already bought his 11th luxury holiday home.

Never mind, lessons learned. READ THE SMALL PRINT, AND FIND OUT WHAT THE EXCLUSIONS MEAN.

So, I guess I have no choice but to haul my sorry ass back to work.