20 Oct 2014
NTUC Income has become the first insurer in Singapore to offer a travel insurance policy that covers pre-existing medical conditions, previously excluded under all local travel insurance coverage.
The Enhanced PreX Travel Insurance plan, the first of its kind in the market, takes care of medical and evacuation expenses even for those with pre-existing conditions. The plan aims to give peace of mind to all travellers with no age limit imposed.
“Each year, we receive an average of 10 per cent of medical claims that are not admissible because of the insured’s pre-existing condition,” said Ms Annie Chua, Senior Manager of Personal Lines, NTUC Income. “Including those who do not submit their claims because they are aware that they are ineligible, the number of people who can potentially benefit from a policy like Enhanced PreX plan is significant.”
Ms Chua added that not many people are aware that travel insurance policies do not cover medical treatment overseas if it is a pre-existing condition.
The Enhanced PreX plan is designed to benefit everyone, especially young children who are prone to falling ill because of changing climatic conditions. For example, condition for those with severe allergies could worsen because of colder and drier weather; while those with respiratory issues could face flare-ups due to spring fever or exposure to increased pollen in the air.
Based on NTUC Income’s claims experience, medical and evacuation expenses are the two most costly and critical items. Those insured under any normal travel policy will have to bear the heavy burden of the cost if it turns out that their conditions are pre-existing.
Ms Chua cited an example of a student who suffered from abdominal pain and vomiting while on a trip to Vietnam. He was treated at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City and was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and ulcerative colitis, a form of inflammatory bowel disease. As the condition was determined by the attending doctor to be pre-existing, his medical claim, evacuation expenses and the transport cost for his family to visit him were not covered.
In another incident, a 58-year-old man, on holiday in India, experienced chest pain. He was diagnosed with a heart attack at a New Delhi hospital. As he previously had coronary heart disease, his claim for hospitalisation was not covered.
“These are just some examples of people who have bear the hefty cost of overseas medical treatment and evacuation expenses because of their pre-existing conditions,” said Ms Chua. “Many travellers have suffered from this plight. That is why we introduced the Enhanced PreX plan so that travellers can go overseas with a greater peace of mind.”
She noted that the Enhanced PreX plan does not cover trip cancellation or curtailment due to pre-existing conditions. The two major items that are covered and which affect travellers the most are medical and evacuation expenses. The plan provides a maximum coverage of 30 days for travellers embarking on short trips. This differs from the current Deluxe and Classic plans, which offers travellers coverage for an extended period of 180 days for similar short trips.
The Enhanced PreX plan is affordably priced. The premium for an adult travelling to Asia for five days is $68, $14 more than NTUC Income’s Deluxe Plan ($54). For a child, the difference is $9.50.
A 15-day trip to the United States is $169, $34 more than NTUC Income’s Deluxe Plan for an adult and $23 more than the Deluxe Plan for a child.
The Enhanced PreX plan is the latest initiative that underscores NTUC Income as a game-changer in the insurance business in Singapore. In 2010, NTUC Income paid travel delay and trip cancellation claims when the volcanic eruption in Iceland affected more than 100,000 flights in Europe. Under the standard policy contract among insurers in Singapore, such benefits only kicked in if the natural disaster happened at the planned destination. Iceland was not the planned destination for many policyholders. But NTUC Income honoured the claims and paid out a substantial amount. NTUC Income’s decision led other local insurers to follow suit.
In recent years, NTUC Income has also rolled out several customer-centric initiatives. They include Orange Force – dedicated riders who provide accident-scene assistance – in 2011; SpecialCare (Autism), a personal accident policy for autistic children and youth, previously uninsured, in 2013; and OrangeSafe, a free defensive riding course for its motorcycle insurance policyholders, earlier this year.