Cancer insurance or cancer care policy is a special type of policy, designed to provide financial help to cancer victims. Once the free-look period has ended, if the policyholder is diagnosed with cancer, then they will get financial help from the insurer as per the terms and conditions of the policy. This insurance provides cover against various expenses associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment, including hospitalization, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, etc.

Money is given under cancer insurance according to the progression of the disease at the time of diagnosis, which is determined by the stage - minor, major and critical stages. However, you should also note that, unlike life insurance, there is no death benefit, maturity or surrender benefit in a cancer insurance policy. In fact, it is not even limited to the actual cost of hospitalization for treatment.

(Read more: Cashless health insurance)

The most important eligibility criteria for taking a cancer insurance policy is that you should not have cancer beforehand. People who have had cancer before and have been treated for it also cannot take a cancer policy. If you take the policy by hiding this fact, then you will be responsible for the cancellation of the policy or non-receipt of claim in future.

  1. Which cancers are covered under a cancer insurance policy
  2. Benefits of cancer insurance
  3. Difference between cancer insurance and critical illness insurance
  4. Who needs cancer insurance
  5. Exclusions in cancer insurance policy
  6. Things to keep in mind before buying cancer insurance
  7. What is the survival period in cancer insurance

Many types of cancers are covered under a cancer insurance policy and coverage is available at many of the stages. Treatment is usually available at the initial or minor stages and is easily done. Often treatment is not possible at the advanced stage and, in case it is, the cost is very high. Some of the following cancers are covered at minor as well as advanced stages under cancer insurance.

(Read more: What does health insurance cover)

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Following are some of the benefits of having a cancer insurance policy: 

  • Covers different stages of cancer
  • The benefit of lump sum payment on diagnosis of cancer
  • Waiver of premium under certain conditions such as diagnosis of early-stage cancer
  • A fixed percentage increase in the sum insured every year for non-claiming
  • The payment as monthly income for a specified number of years on the diagnosis of a major cancer
  • A premium waiver is available for policies above a certain amount
  • The insurance cover does not end after the cancer is diagnosed for the first time
  • Tax benefits are available under section 80D of the Income Tax Act.

(Read more: Health insurance plans for family)

Critical illness insurance helps pay for costly treatment of specific critical illnesses such as stroke, major organ transplant, paralysis, cardiac arrest, multiple sclerosis, kidney failure, total blindness and deafness. Some life-threatening cancers are also covered under critical illness insurance. Under critical illness insurance, a lump sum benefit is given to the insured on the diagnosis of a critical illness covered by the policy. This lump sum amount can be used by the insured for deductible, treatment of illness, co-payment, therapy and other necessary expenses. Critical illness insurance is generally cheaper than comprehensive health insurance, as it provides coverage for only a few designated critical illnesses. You can take critical illness insurance as a separate policy or as an add-on with your existing life insurance, term insurance or health insurance policy.

(Read more: Difference between health insurance and life insurance)

The biggest drawback of plans like critical insurance is that cancer is covered only in the advanced stage. Apart from this, there is no discount on future premiums under critical illness insurance and you cannot increase the sum insured also. The coverage ends when the diagnosis of one of the diseases falling under the critical illness insurance is made.

Disadvantages of critical illness insurance:

  • Critical illness insurance does not cover complications arising due to cancer
  • If symptoms of cancer appear within 90 days (usually the waiting period prescribed in most policies) of taking critical illness insurance, then the policy lapses and coverage is not available
  • No critical illness insurance policy covers the early stages of cancer. If a person is diagnosed with cancer even after the initial waiting period, then it cannot be claimed before it reaches the advanced stage

(Read more: Difference between tumour and cancer)

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Cancer insurance is a must for everyone. Cancer does not only bring the disease with it; it has a domino effect on the family, not only physically, but also emotionally and financially. Along with this, you should also keep in mind that even some of the best health policies do not cover cancer-related expenses and, if they do, all the stages of cancer are not covered even then.

(Read more: Family floater health insurance)

You must take cancer insurance if:

  • Someone in your family has had cancer before; that is, there is a history of cancer in the family.
  • If you think you have a higher risk of getting cancer due to environmental or other reasons.
  • You don't have enough savings to pay for the huge medical bills that come with cancer treatment.
  • If your health insurance policy does not have adequate coverage
  • If you are the only earning member in the household.

Following are some of the exclusions mentioned in most cancer insurance policies:

  • There is no coverage for skin cancer.
  • If the cancer is directly or indirectly caused by sexually transmitted diseases like HIV or AIDS, it cannot be claimed.
  • If cancer is caused by a congenital disease, pre-existing condition, biological, nuclear or chemical pollution or exposure to radiation or radioactivity from any non-diagnostic or medical source, coverage is not provided.

Keep in mind that in the above-mentioned situations, the claim is generally not given under any cancer insurance. Different insurance companies can add other exclusions in their policy as well. So read the policy document carefully.

(Read more: What does health insurance not cover)

Those who have a history of cancer in their family must take out a cancer policy. Such people should also look at their health insurance plan once again and assess how a cancer policy can complement their health policy. Also, it should be kept in mind that the claim from cancer policy can be taken only in the case of a cancer diagnosis and not in the case of any other disease.

Having two insurance policies does not mean double coverage. That is, if you have a comprehensive health insurance policy and also have cancer insurance, then it does not mean that you can take double benefit of both these insurance policies. Most insurance policies come with a 'coordination of benefits' clause. This means that if one policy is covering an expense, the same cannot be claimed in the other policy.

(Read more: Top-up health insurance)

If you have decided to get cancer insurance, then we recommend that you compare different plans from different companies and choose the one with the best and most comprehensive coverage for you.

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Like other insurance policies, cancer insurance policies also have a waiting period. But there is also a survival period associated with cancer insurance. The survival insurance count starts after the cancer is diagnosed for the first time. Generally, most cancer insurance plans have a survival period of 7 days; however, it may vary from company to company. One is given the claim under cancer insurance only if the patient survives through the survival period after the diagnosis of the disease. In some plans, the survival period can be 30 days or more. Therefore, we advise that before taking a cancer policy, do good research about it and do a comparison between several plans.

(Read more: Health insurance plans for family)

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