Dealing with mental health and critical illness, the AIA way

| 16 Jun 2021

Video edited by Azri Bahari

With all the negativity and isolation over the last year or so, COVID-19 has truly brought mental health issues among Singaporeans to front of mind. But at the same time, critical illness (CI) continues to be a major point of concern as well.

Speaking to Asia Advisers Network, AIA Singapore financial services consultant Joseph Kyndrede, having dealt with clients who suffered both issues, talked about how mental health and CI can be interlinked.

The importance of CI coverage

Citing AIA’s Health Matters Survey 2021, he pointed to how 91% of Singaporeans surveyed had reported a decline in their mental health during the pandemic, which has seen many people losing their jobs and businesses closing.

Mirroring that, he brought up how one of the main financial challenges facing someone who has suffered a CI stems from the loss of income, due to their inability to work as they recover, which will eventually put a strain on their mental health.

Similarly, mental health issues could also potentially affect a person’s likelihood of suffering a CI. “Mental health is the first big kick to people and CI comes right after. Because when your mind takes you away and you start stress eating and don't sleep as much anymore, illnesses come in all ways and forms,” he said.

“Adequate CI coverage is a really good solution for this because if you really think about it, the coverage amount, sum assured and benefit payouts are going to help you and alleviate the symptoms of the loss of income that you might be experiencing.”

Causation or correlation?

While there does appear to be a relationship between the two, can mental health really cause CI, and vice versa? Speaking broadly, Mr Kyndrede suggested that it is very possible for that to happen.

“If a person has a mental condition first and he's so stressed out that he cannot perform in his day to day and feels so defeated in life, his body takes a hit because: If you're not going to be taking care of your health — you're not sleeping well, not eating well, not exercising enough and you’re just defeated all the time — you're just falling into that depression and anxiety. You're not going to be able to perform in any other areas of your life. And therefore, when your body starts taking the hits, your cholesterol starts going up, your blood pressure starts going up, your CI is going to inevitably come,” he said.

“When the body is no longer taking this, it’s going to give. Anything’s going to give with that much intensity. And that's why mental health can lead to CI.”

He added that the opposite is also possible. A person suffering or recovering from CI will likely spend an extended period out of work — a period during which they may not be able to fulfil the responsibility of providing for themselves or their family.

“That can take you down that downward spiral of, ‘Oh no, I'm not good enough’. And the whole theory of guilt and shame starts coming in and people are just going to be completely floored with the anxiety and depression,” he said.


Two birds with one stone

Believing that neither should be managed in isolation, AIA in 2019 released AIA Beyond Critical Care (BCC), which provides coverage for Cis and up to five prominent mental illnesses — depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome (up to 21 years old).

And beyond covering both mental health issues and Cis, Mr Kyndrede also highlighted three advantages of BCC over traditional CI plans:

  • Two levels — Where traditional CI plans only offered a one-time payout in the event of CI, BCC will still cover a secondary CI later in the policyholder’s life, which is useful to have considering the high cost of private medical treatment in Singapore.
  • Full refund — In the event the policyholder is not diagnosed with any CI or mental illness, they will be eligible for a full refund of total annual premiums paid.
  • Accessibility — CI can strike anyone and BCC is relevant for all ages, young and old. BCC is good for younger people who have a longer timeline they need coverage for, while also being good for older people — who can get a full refund if nothing happens.

He also brought up how one of his clients jumped at the chance to buy the plan because of how relevant it is in today’s climate.

Tackling the stigma

Despite Singapore’s society having made progress over the years, there remains a fair bit of stigma when it comes to acknowledging and talking about mental health issues.

According to Mr Kyndrede, living in such a dynamic and hardworking society means that admitting having a mental health issue is likely to bring with it the shame of saying we are not good enough, and that those mental health issues are just bad thoughts.

And he was quick to stress that this could not be further from the truth. “These are not bad thoughts. It’s okay not to be okay,” he said. “With the world the way it is now, it's super important that we share with people that this is an important topic we need to broach.”

He added that agents, need to share with people that this is indeed a problem — with one in four people having gone through anxiety or depression at least once in their lives — that people can relate to.

“People only feel judged when they feel like they're talking to people who don't understand. With enough of us actually going through this process ourselves, it's a judgment free zone. So clients should actually now be a bit more open,” he said.

“And in my opinion, they have been more open, especially when I talk about mental illnesses and CI. They've always been, “You know what? This is an important thing. I know a friend. I know a colleague. I know a family member, a sibling. And believe it or not, this big movement is going to really go down this road and it's here to stay.”

A niche product

BCC was not an overnight creation — AIA had been steadily increasing the benefits of the plan prior to its launch. And he feels that the product is good enough to sell itself.

“You’re not selling BCC,” he said. “You’re providing a niche product that’s required by the market, to the market.

“Your only job as an agent really is to showcase the plan. You don't need to embellish it, showcase its pure benefit on its own. And you'd be surprised a lot of people do not have many objections with a plan like this.”

The plan is viable for people across a wide spectrum of ages because CI can realistically affect anyone at any age. “It does cover everyone equally. Different priorities are still taken care of, but it's still from the same product,” he said.

Disclaimer: The information in this article/video represents the opinions of a financial services consultant who has had considerable experience managing clients with related issues.

AIA Beyond Critical Care is underwritten by AIA Singapore Private Limited (Reg. No. 201106386R) (“AIA”). All insurance applications are subject to AIA’s underwriting and acceptance. The precise terms and conditions of this plan, including exclusions whereby the benefits under this plan may not be paid out, are specified in the policy contract. You are advised to read the policy contract.

As buying a life insurance policy is a long-term commitment, an early termination of the policy usually involves high costs and the surrender value, if any, that is payable to you may be zero or less than the total premiums paid. Buying health insurance products that are not suitable for you may impact your ability to finance your future healthcare needs. You should consider carefully before terminating the policy or switching to a new one as there may be disadvantages in doing so. The new policy may cost more or have fewer benefits at the same cost.

Protected up to specified limits by SDIC. This advertisement has not been reviewed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

The information is correct as at 4 June 2021.

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