“Business with fear” : consumer protectionists are outraged by cancer insurance

Berlin-based startup Getsurance offers an insurance policy that pays out for cancer-related illnesses. What is the policy good for?

Cancer is scary. There is no insurance against the disease, only coverage for financial risks

Raindrops run down the pane, a woman looks into the distance. She looks sad. Just like the little girl sitting on her mother’s arm. "Cancer threatens money shortage", warn the ads on the Internet. Fortunately, the advertising immediately has the right answer: "Take precautions in good time."

What is meant here is not regular participation in preventive examinations, but the conclusion of a cancer insurance policy. One such policy is offered by Getsurance, the Berlin-based startup behind the ads. It is supposed to mitigate the financial consequences of cancer.

Cancer insurance pays up to 100,000 euros if you or one of your children is diagnosed with cancer. Older people can cover a maximum of 50,000 euros.

Many cases are not insured, consumer protectionists criticize

Consumer protectionists are outraged. "This is a business with fear," says Michael Wortberg from the consumer advice center in Rhineland-Palatinate. It considers cancer insurance to be "pure money-making". In many cases, the insurance would not pay, because benign tumors or precancerous lesions are not covered. In addition, there is a waiting period of six months.

The Bund der Versicherten shares the criticism. "The one-time payment is no good as a hedge against a loss of earnings," Kim Paulsen points out. In addition, it makes no sense to take out an insurance policy that only covers a specific illness. "Cancer is the reason for occupational disability in only 15 percent of cases," reports consumer advocate. "The other 85 percent are not covered".

Paulsen and Wortberg recommend taking out occupational disability insurance instead of cancer insurance. This pays out if you can no longer work due to an illness – regardless of what you are suffering from. "Occupational disability insurance offers much more comprehensive protection," says Paulsen.

Diagnosis of lung cancer. Experts expect the number of cancer cases to increase. The good news is that the chances of being cured are increasing

Getsurance founder and CEO Johannes Becher rejects the criticism. Many people could not afford such disability insurance because they have pre-existing conditions or work in a job – such as a roofer – that is considered risky. "It’s better to have some coverage than none at all," Becher says. Cancer is, after all, one of the most common diseases.

That’s right. This year, experts predict that around 500,000 people will be newly diagnosed with cancer. Older people are much more likely to be affected than young people. Although a cancer diagnosis triggers fear, it is not necessarily a death sentence. Because the life expectancy of cancer patients is increasing. Whereas in 1980 more than two thirds of cancer patients died of their cancer, today more than half can hope for a permanent cure, according to the German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ).

Getsurance promises unbureaucratic help

Getsurance promises rapid help for those affected. One pays, as soon as the certificate of the specialist is present and a certificate of the health insurance, which treatments one had in the past 18 months, assures Becher. This is to ensure that customers do not already have a cancer diagnosis when they take out the insurance.

Further restrictions: Anyone who has had a tumor in the last ten years is not insured – even if it is an everyday skin cancer such as a basalioma. In the case of black skin cancer, the insurance only covers the operation if the operated area is larger than two millimeters. Leukemia is only an insured event if the anemia leads to symptoms of illness.

What the policy costs

Getsurance advertises that insurance coverage is available for as little as 9.95 euros a month. However, Becher admits that premiums of between 15 and 20 euros per month are usual.

Sample calculations show: A 24-year-old pays just under 28 euros if he wants to insure 100,000 euros. Anyone who takes out a policy for 50,000 euros as a 58-year-old spends considerably more: 40.99 euros a month.

However, consumer protection experts advise customers not to throw in the towel too quickly. Who has problems to find an occupational disability insurance, should turn to specialized brokers such as the "BUForum 24", advises Michael Wortberg. If that doesn’t work out either, a dread disease policy that covers several serious illnesses and not just cancer is the better choice, she says.

What alternatives are available

Such policies come in a variety of forms. Cosmos Direkt pays out the agreed sum insured in the more expensive term life insurance variants "Comfort-Schutz" and "Comfort-Plus-Schutz" if customers suffer from an incurable, fatal illness and probably only have a maximum of one year to live. At Dialog Lebensversicherung, dread disease protection is an option in the classic occupational disability insurance policy. In the event of certain serious illnesses – including stroke, cancer, chronic kidney failure – customers receive the agreed one-off payment regardless of whether or not they are incapacitated for work.

Many insurance policies cover not only cancer but also other serious illnesses. Consumer advocates believe this makes more sense

Market leader Allianz has a so-called body protection policy on offer. It pays a monthly pension if certain activities such as walking, lifting, sitting, writing, seeing or hearing are lost due to an accident or illness. Anyone who falls ill with cancer, multiple sclerosis or paraplegia, suffers a heart attack or stroke, or falls into a coma, receives a one-off payment of up to 60,000 euros.

A 35-year-old who insures an annuity of 1,000 euros plus a lump-sum payment equal to one year’s pension must spend a good 51 euros a month on it. However, the insurance will only pay after 28 days. If the patient dies before then, the insurer is free to.

Berliner Ideal-Versicherung has reacted to the criticism

Things are different with the Berlin-based Ideal-Versicherung. The sum insured is due even if the insured dies prematurely. Ideal also used to offer cancer-only insurance, but faced fierce criticism from consumer advocates for its "cancer airbag".

More on the topic

If nothing more goes An occupational disability insurance makes sense – very few have one

"Business with fear" : consumer protectionists are outraged by cancer insurance

Since March last year this policy is no longer available. It has been replaced by the "Total Protect" dread disease policy. The new insurance does not cover a specific catalog, but all permanent serious illnesses. This means that illnesses are also insured "which are not yet known or which currently do not lead to any restrictions," according to Ideal.

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