BAGUIO CITY – A housewife and a mother of three, 39-year old Editha first discovered she was suffering from stage-3 breast cancer in the summer of 2001. The news came as a tremendous shock to her family, particularly as they were unprepared to face the emotional and financial burdens, among others, posed by the big C to their future.
Her eldest was on his final year in high school and was about to take up a pre-Medicine program at the University of Santo Tomas, while her two daughters, at that time, were still too young to endure seeing their mother wage a fight against cancer. Not someone to surrender quickly in what could be her biggest battle yet, Editha went under the knife to have her left breast removed, well determined to continue marching on for her family. Her battle, though, put a significant strain on the family’s finances, as they had to shell out huge amounts of money to pay for her medicines and her regular chemotherapy sessions.
However, barely two years following the gloomy discovery, she suffered from cancer recurrence and after six months of another hard-fought battle, succumbed to the disease at the very young age of 41.
Experts say that, although Filipinos suffering from breast cancer may have the highest incidence of complete remission, they also have the highest percentage of financial catastrophes; For every two Filipinos who suffer from cancer- the third leading cause of death here in the Philippines; one is likely to succumb to the disease within the year following its diagnosis, experts say; Indeed, it is perhaps safe to say that cancer has truly become a burden of disease, not only for the people who suffer from it, but also to families, friends, colleagues, and other individuals who have to endure the impact of this disease.
“Contrary to the way most of us feel about the disease, cancer does not strike you when you are old,” says FWD President and CEO, Peter Grimes, the man leading the country’s fastest-growing insurance provider who is introducing a breakthrough financial tool aimed at cushioning the cost of battling the disease. “It is a cruel thing and, unfortunately, a lot of Filipinos continue to suffer from it.”
A whopping 75% of Filipinos who die from cancer are under 50-years old. In Baguio, for example, the city health office revealed that at least one person succumbs to the disease every day, of which lung cancer is the biggest culprit; Officials of the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center, meanwhile, noted that about three to four cases of lung cancer a week and at least 10 cases of liver cancer are confirmed in the area every month and A lot of times, too, cancer-stricken Filipinos are left with very little opportunities to triumph against the disease, primarily because cancer is discovered during its late stages and most families are financially incapable to afford the necessary treatments.
Grimes has encountered a lot of figures, statistics, and factors contributing to the growing problem of cancer prevalence here in the Philippines. That’s one of the reasons why he and his organization are very keen to provide a much needed insurance tool that helps counter the debilitating impact of the disease to the lives of every Filipino family.
“We want to make it simple for Filipinos to fight cancer because it’s a very curable thing that we can definitely conquer,” he shares. “If you get to it earlier and you’ve prepared well and have the financial resources to be able to get the right kind of treatment, you can certainly get well.”
That same idea has driven FWD to pioneer and create a cancer plan that covers all types of cancer. Aptly called the “Fight Plan,” the creation of this FWD product is anchored on the vision that no form of cancer should be excluded because even early detection treatments cost real money and can actually pose a financial burden to Filipinos with different circumstances.
“The key thing for the Fight Plan as an FWD product is that it has no exclusions whatsoever. There is no fine print, no complicated questions,” Grimes explains.
Individuals wishing to avail of the Fight Plan only have to answer two simple health-related questions. The premiums will vary accordingly, depending of course on age, gender, and other factors, but Grimes assures that it’s a highly affordable product. “I think for somebody around typically the late 20s, 30s, we have a million peso of coverage for around P 8,000-P 9,000 premium per year,” he explains. “That seems like less than a cup of your favorite coffee a day, and certainly a lot less than buying the latest version of an iPhone.”
Insurance penetration in the country, according to the latest statistics from the Insurance Commission (IC), was at 1.74% at the end of 2015, which most likely suggests that a lot of Filipinos merely rely on health maintenance organizations (HMOs) to cover their medical expenses.
“There’s nothing wrong with HMOs. I think the average coverage here in the Philippines is about P200,000+, which is fine is you’ve got a small health problem going on, but not if you’re facing a major medical incident like cancer,” Grimes shares. “It’s not enough money and it is sad when death can easily be prevented, and the only thing stopping you is if you don’t have enough financial resources to have the right medical treatment.”
Those wishing to avail of the Fight Plan can choose between two payment methods pay in five years or pay in 10 years and get insurance coverage for up to 15 years.
“We are looking to bring more types of products in the protection space, very much like Fight Plan, that meets the needs and requirements of modern-day consumers and compliments savings and investment goals,” Grimes ends.
By Dexter A. See