Insurance for the unborn

Two new insurance plans seek to give protection to young ones from the womb itself, as well as offer much needed support to children living with developmental conditions. Priya Kulasagaran takes a closer look at these efforts to help parents

It is safe to say that these days, most Malaysians are very familiar with the concept of having an insurance policy. For some years now, awareness of the need to purchase an insurance policy has been on the rise. This is partially due to higher education levels and greater exposure to financial products amongst the general public, and also the large number of insurance agents who have been actively making inroads into the Malaysian market for years now. As a result, many urban middle-class Malaysians have purchased at least one or more insurance products.

This is particularly the case for parents seeking to plan ahead and prepare for life’s contingencies and unexpected events when it comes to their children. What some parents may not realise however, is that they need not even wait for their child to be born to get an insurance plan for their offspring in place. Aside from maternity insurance to help with the costs of delivery and post-natal care, insurance providers are increasingly setting up new plans to cater to a child from as early as pregnancy right up to adulthood.

Pregnancy can be a trying time for many mothers, from the late-night cravings, to dealing with the hormonal changes the body is undergoing. More often than not, the nine-months will go by without too many problems, and you can look forward to holding your bundle of joy in your arms. However, what does one do to cope with financial costs should a complication during pregnancy arise? This is where having an insurance plan that covers complications such as amniotic fluid embolism or eclampsia can help — if anything, it is one less thing to worry about.

Just as with any other forms of health insurance, it helps to have a plan that covers as many medical conditions as possible, including congenital conditions. If an infant is born with congenital conditions, the last thing parents want to worry about is the cost of treatment. The priority will always be getting the best possible treatment for the baby and nothing else. Infant care can be rather costly, so it is always good to have it covered. Similarly, child development disorders such as autism can pose a whole new set of financial complications for a young family.

That said, while there may be insurance plans that cover mothers and newborns, it is best to read the fine print. Some health insurance plans may even feature a waiting period of up to a year for maternity coverage benefits, although the waiting period for infants is usually much shorter and a child can often be covered in just a few months after a policy is purchased. Meanwhile, when it comes to development disorders like autism, insurance providers are still rather reluctant to include these under their list of covered conditions.

Changing the game

These issues were what prompted AIA Bhd (AIA) to launch two new products – A-Life Lady360 and A-Life Joy – to cater to new mothers and newborns. The A-Life Lady360 is available to women as soon as their pregnancy is confirmed, without the usual requirement of medical underwriting (where the applicants health information is evaluated for coverage) if the pregnancy is under 14 weeks. Available to those aged 16 to 45, the plan is said to be the first of its kind in Malaysia.

“There was an obvious gap in the market,” says AIA’s chief marketing officer Eric Chang. “Until now, many women were unable to secure pre-natal coverage due to complications they experienced during the first trimester of their pregnancy. This plan allows our customers to secure coverage for their baby as soon as they confirm their pregnancy.”

Chang added that Health Ministry statistics from last year showed that pregnancy complications are significantly prevalent, as 12.3% of 500,000 babies are born prematurely every year. “Another local study also showed that around two out of every 1,000 babies in Malaysia need to be admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit for perinatal asphyxia, where the newborn doesn’t have enough oxygen going to the brain. These numbers makes it clear that mothers and their newborns need to be protected against such unexpected events. What we want to do is give mothers some peace of mind; pregnancy can be hard enough to deal with, so they can at least have this worry off their shoulders,” he said.

Aside from pregnancy complications, the plan also provides a one-off payment for medical complications that arise due to elective cosmetic surgery, hormone replacement therapy for menopause, as well as psychotherapy treatment for anxiety disorder or depression disorder.

Meanwhile, the company’s A-Life Joy is an investment-linked plan that gives parents the option to widen the scope of their children’s insurance coverage as they wish. Here, investment-linked means that the value of the policy will depend on the type of investment funds that you choose. What is interesting is that unlike many other insurance plans currently available, the plan includes developmental conditions such as autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in its list of critical illnesses.

Explaining that the plan can start as early as the prenatal stage of under 35 weeks, Chang said the company chose to include autism and ADHD coverage as such conditions come as a huge financial burden to many families. “Having a child diagnosed with autism or ADHD in itself is already a daunting thing — it becomes even harder to cope when you factor in the costs involved. This includes the need to provide specialised care, therapy, education, and even nutritional needs. It is our hope that through this plan, parents can at least get some help with getting the required treatment for their child,” he said, adding that parents of a child with autism can easily spend RM4,000 a month just for therapy alone.

Chang further noted that with the support of having an insurance plan, parents would be more willing to seek out early intervention if their child has a developmental condition. “Twenty years ago, there was little awareness of these sorts of medical conditions. But now we are better informed, we have a responsibility to respond to the needs of our consumers, and help them the best we can,” he said.

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