Ahad, 27 April 2014

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

Critical planning

Posted: 26 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

What are the various types of critical illness plans offered in Malaysia?

The last article in this ongoing series on critical health insurance stressed the importance of conducting research before deciding to purchase an insurance plan.

To rehash, some of the few things one should keep in mind are:

Do I really need critical illness cover? How much do I need?

The answer is usually yes. How much depends on your savings, and usually, only the very well-off will be able to afford the medical costs that will arise without a plan.

Perform a careful analysis of the expenses that would arise if you were diagnosed with an illness, both direct costs (hospitalisation and medical fees), as well as indirect costs (loss of income, debt or loans that you may have to still repay while ill).

You have to decide what percentage of the costs should be covered by a policy and what should come from your savings. This should be the minimum coverage your policy offers.

Take into consideration that the expected increase in medical and hospitalisation costs is 12-15% per year, so do factor that into your calculations.

What does critical illness cover encompass?

Most critical illness plans cover a wide range of common critical illnesses.

The three most commonly diagnosed critical illnesses in Malaysia are heart disease, stroke and cancer.

What else should I do before purchasing a policy?

Take into consideration maximum benefits versus costs; the kind of deductibles (the less, the better); and the waiting period between claims (the shorter, the better).

This week we look at the various types of critical illness plans that are offered.

There are three common variants:

1. The term policy

This term policy is usually claimable upon the event of a critical illness diagnosis, and is generally inexpensive, but because of that, coverage can be limited and expires after the insured reaches a certain age – conventionally, 70 years old.

2. Whole life policy

The critical illness coverage comes as a rider, with death and disability coverage too.

Owning a such policy would allow for the insured to claim upon diagnosis of an illness, so that the monies can be used to get better or replace income while ill, while the policy still remains in force, which means getting benefits upon death or disability.

3. Investment-linked

The critical illness coverage is also available as a rider, and works similar to a whole life policy, but the value of the policy may grow with time, as a portion of the premiums paid will be used for investments, and another portion for insurance costs.

Besides these three variants of critical illness products, there are also certain terms that refer to when the benefits will be paid.

Payout options may change as the diagnosis and treatment of critical illness advances in accordance with the times, and knowing these terms is important in making a decision to purchase a policy.

·"Basic" 36 critical illnesses – Upon the diagnosis of any of the 36 defined critical illnesses, a lump sum benefit will be paid out.

Affordable as these plans may be, there could be multiple caveats when it comes to claims.

Insurers may have some unwieldy definitions as to when a disease turns "critical".

When the severity of the disease does not meet that definition, or if the critical illness is in its early stages, or even if the invasiveness of the disease is ambiguous, customers may not be able to make a claim and are required to wait the illness out for further inspection and subsequent diagnoses.

This can be highly frustrating!

·"Multiple" critical illness – Traditional critical illness policies lapse after a single claim has been made.

However, it is becoming increasingly popular to offer "multiple" critical illnesses cover because of the higher chance of contracting more than one critical illness in a lifetime.

Plans usually allow customers to claim twice or thrice.

It is extremely important to carefully read the policy for the definition of "multiple" critical illness cover, as insurers tend to group the critical illnesses, and a second or third claim can only be made when the illness is not a recurrence of the same illness, and belongs to a different group.

These groups are characterised by where the illness originated from, which organ it affects, and if any critical illnesses could possibly be co-related.

·"Early stage" critical illness – Early stage critical illness plans pay a partial amount of the lump sum benefit when a critical illness is diagnosed, but is not considered to be at a stage that is severe.

Further payouts will be made if the severity of the illness increases, and this mitigates the issues found in the "Basic" plans.

Again, there needs to be a detailed inspection of these policies.

There could be exclusions, and what "early" treatment the policy pays for could vary from insurer to insurer.

·More than one claim on the same critical illness – Multiple claims on the same critical illness, or on the recurrence or relapse of the same critical illness, is one of the newest developments for the health insurance industry, and Manulife Insurance has recently developed a plan that covers a few critical illnesses twice.

The recurrence rate within five years of a first heart attack, stroke or hospitalisation stands at almost 30%.

This is worrying when you consider that heart attack, stroke and cancer are the three most common diagnosed critical illnesses of Malaysians as well.

One thing to consider, however, when purchasing a plan as such, is what kind of illnesses are eligible for recurrence claims, and if your health history warrants such a plan.

> This article was brought to you by Manulife Insurance Berhad.

Photographing retinas

Posted: 26 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Retinal photographs can help doctors assess whether diabetes has damaged the retina of the eye, and take the appropriate action.

MANY people are not aware that diabetes mellitus can cause blindness.

Fortunately, this disastrous outcome is avoidable if the right care is taken. One simple preventive measure is for diabetics to take retinal photographs once a year so that their doctors can easily detect early warning signs of eye damage.

The Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology operates Eye Photo, a non-profit retinal photography service, using a high-resolution digital fundus camera donated by Bank Simpanan Nasional.

The service is a pilot project to make retinal photography easily accessible, particularly to those diabetic patients who have not been getting their retinas checked.

Diabetes causes vision loss by damaging the retina, an important nerve layer in the eye.

If you compare the eye to a film camera, the retina is like the photographic film – just as a camera cannot produce good photographs with spoilt film, the eye cannot see clearly with a damaged retina.

Retinal damage from diabetes, or diabetic retinopathy, does not give rise to any eyesight problems at first.

However, as the disease worsens, symptoms such as blurring, distortion and floaters will eventually appear.

Unfortunately, there is often serious damage to the retina by the time patients notice anything wrong with their vision.

A doctor can diagnose diabetic retinopathy by viewing the retina directly, or by reviewing photographs of the retina.

Bleeding, fatty deposits, abnormal blood vessels or scar tissue in the eye are indications of diabetic damage.

If abnormalities that are serious enough to threaten vision are observed, treatment should be given promptly.

Effective treatments for diabetic retinopathy include retinal laser photocoagulation, injections of medications and surgery, depending on the situation.

Successful treatment can stabilise – or at least, markedly slow down – retinal damage and prevent progression to blindness. Nevertheless, it cannot restore the retina to normal; it is hence, essential that treatment is given before serious retinal damage has already occurred.

As there are usually no symptoms at this stage, everyone with diabetes should have routine screening for diabetic retinopathy, instead of waiting until eyesight problems appear.

Screening for diabetic retinopathy can be done either by the primary doctor treating the diabetes or by an ophthalmologist (an eye specialist doctor).

However, it can sometimes be difficult for non-ophthalmologists to examine the retina as they do not have special eye-testing equipment. Retinal photography comes in useful here, as it allows the doctor to see the retina in photographs, instead of needing to look directly inside the patient's eyes.

Retinal photographs are taken quickly and painlessly – in a flash, literally – using a fundus camera. Most eyes give good quality pictures, except when there are small pupils, corneal problems or cataracts.

Patients without eyesight symptoms are ideal candidates for diabetic retinopathy screening using retinal photography. Others, who have already noticed vision problems, should best see an ophthalmologist for a complete eye check instead.

The Eye Photo project is strictly a photography service, and patients are responsible for bringing the photographs back to their doctors to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy. If the doctor sees any danger signs, the patient should be referred to an ophthalmologist.

Otherwise, the doctor can continue to monitor the patient with another retinal photograph after a suitable interval.

You can protect your eyes, kidneys and other important organs from diabetic damage by maintaining excellent diabetic control, normal blood pressure and optimal cholesterol levels, and by avoiding smoking completely.

Remember, preserving your vision starts with an eye examination – please get your retinas checked once a year even if you do not notice any problems with your eyesight.

Eye Photo is located in L2-03, SStwo Mall, Jalan SS2/72, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Opening hours are Tuesday to Friday, noon to 6.30pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11am to 7pm; closed on Mondays and public holidays. Charge: RM15; free for OKU-registered patients. For more information, email msoeyephoto@gmail.com or call 03-79606728.

Simon's gift of life

Posted: 26 Apr 2014 09:00 AM PDT

A tiny heart: One baby's death gives life to another.

SIMON Alexander Garcia lived only one brief hour. But somewhere, a little girl's heart is beating today because of him.

Kim Whitworth and her husband, Michael Garcia, were devastated to learn at their 20-week ultrasound examination last year that their first child's lungs and bladder were developing abnormally.

Though they knew he would not survive, the Fort Worth, Texas, couple chose to continue the pregnancy.

Simon was born just before midnight on June 28 at the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, Fort Worth, United States, two weeks ahead of his expected due date.

"He had so much hair it was hard to believe," said Whitworth, 21. "Everyone was amazed at how beautiful he was."

Not long after Simon took his final breath, his parents were asked whether they would consider donating his heart valves to possibly help other children in need.

"My husband and I said 'yes'. We didn't hesitate," Whitworth said.

It wasn't until last week that Whitworth and Garcia learned that one of Simon's heart valves went to a little girl at a Dallas hospital in February.

Kim Whitworth places her hand near the name of her baby, Simon, at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth n Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday April 15, 2014. Simon's name has been added to the hospital's Wall of Life. (Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

Whitworth places her hand near the name of her baby, Simon, at the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital's Wall of Life. -MCT

"When I found out, I was overjoyed. I broke down in tears," said Garcia, 22. "He died for a purpose. I knew he was going to help someone out. I was overwhelmed by the love God has."

Simon's family shared their story this week during a ceremony at the hospital aimed at raising awareness of the critical need across the state and country for organ and tissue donors. April is National Donate Life Month. Since 2010, the hospital has annually recognised donors such as Simon and recipients by adding their names to the Wall of Life.

"There are a lot of people who have lost a loved one tragically. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it," said Whitworth, who encouraged people to consider organ donation. "But I think if you can do it, do it. It gives you hope that maybe your loved one can live on in someone else."

Across Texas alone, nearly 12,000 men, women and children await a potentially lifesaving organ transplant, said Laura Frnka-Davis, spokeswoman for the Houston-based LifeGift, a non-profit organ procurement group.

That doesn't count the thousands of others whose lives could be improved through transplants of tissue, including skin, tendons, bone and corneas, she said.

"Across the country every day, 75 people are saved through the gift of life, through transplantation," she added.

Though 5.26 million people have already signed up for the Donate Life Texas Registry, just 1-2% of them will go on to become organ donors because of either how they die or the organ match for someone in need, she said.

"We continue to push people to become registered donors."

Donors can help as many as eight people through organ donation, and can help improve the lives of 50 people or more through tissue donation, according to LifeGift.

Donor families are never billed for expenses related to organ or tissue donations, said Dr Tariq Khan, the medical director of Harris Methodist Hospital's kidney transplant program.

About 1,800 children in the US are among the 120,000 people waiting for an organ transplant, according to Donate Life America.

Last year, 139 organ donors across the country were younger than one, according to the United Network for Organ Sharing. Statistics on infant tissue donors were not available.

Whitworth said she hopes that one day she can meet the little girl whose life Simon touched.

"I would absolutely love that," she said. – Fort Worth Star-Telegram/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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