INTERVIEW:: Michael HAAS, Head L&H Austria, Austria and CEE, Swiss Re

31 January 2019 — Daniela GHETU
Head L&H Austria, Austria and CEE, Swiss Re
XPRIMM: Cancer is currently one of diseases with a high incidence; in fact, it would probably not be wrong saying that its incidence is increasing. On the other hand, medical research has done steps forward to cure or at least to increase the chances of survival for longer periods. How would you comment on the general situation in this regard?

Michael HAAS: Indeed, the incidences are still increasing, and it is expected to continue. However, the good message is that also treatment of cancer is awaited to improve which may lead ultimately to longer survival periods and a reduction of number of deaths due to cancer. Screening programs and early diagnoses might also help to earlier detections; however, it also may lead to higher incidences of cancer at early stages.

XPRIMM: Treatments for the cancer disease are usually expensive and in some cases even hardly available, especially in the less developed countries. How can insurance help people to get a timely access to cancer screening and, most important, to the latest treatments?

M.H.: There are two main aspects: financial flexibility and availability/accessibility of medical services. An insurance policy should ideally cover both components. Services like medical second opinion verifying the diagnostic and the treatment plan as well as navigation to the best available medical experts and facilities either domestic or abroad should ensure timely and best available treatment. The cash benefit could be used for instance in order to pay for higher quality of treatment or to compensate any additional cost which comes along with such a severe disease.

Overall, in markets with public (obligatory) health insurance covering most of treatment costs, cancer policies provide additional benefits to supplement services within the public system. In markets without social security systems, cancer insurance can be one of the main sources of financing cancer treatment.

XPRIMM: Cancer is a disease that takes many forms, each of them needing a different approach and different levels of treatment complexity and duration. How is this diversity reflected by the insurance products offer?

M.H.: It is very difficult to design a product which would cover all variations of different types of cancer. Exclusive concepts may be able to cover everything. However, there would be a high cost we would rather recommend providing a product that is affordable for almost everyone including children and old people. Nevertheless, coverages are often distinguished in invasive types of cancer and pre- or early types of cancer which require less financial support.

XPRIMM: How would you comment on the development stage of the health insurance segment, in general, in the CEE region?

M.H.: More or less in the entire CEE region the state usually takes care of the health of the people. Accordingly, the availability of healthcare as well as the quality of treatment is very much depended on the state budget. In recent years we have seen rather attempts to cut the budget and to shift more and more to the private sector than to improve the infrastructure and to invest in medical facilities.

XPRIMM: How would you comment on the availability and affordability of the existent health insurance products covering the cancer disease in the less developed markets of the CEE?

M.H.: We started with the first pure cancer product in Poland in 2012 and continued with product implementations shortly afterwards in Russia and other CEE markets. Different cancer products are now available in many CEE countries and we continuously launch new concepts. Generally, we are happy to see that in some markets cancer insurance became even a standard product that everyone should have bought. We are very proud that Swiss Re could already help many people suffering from cancer. Apart from that Swiss Re provides financial support to more than 10.000 cancer patients worldwide.

XPRIMM: Often patients with cancer need also long-term care or access to palliative care in the terminal phases of the disease. Are these needs usually covered by the insurance policies?

M.H.: Long-term care is the most difficult component to insure as it is very hard to predict the level of future medical cost. Most coverages are limited in time as the costly and the service intensive part is usually rather in the first year(s). However, some products also cover relapsed cancer or a second diagnosis of a different cancer type. Furthermore, in some markets we also made great experience offering rehabilitation services to cancer patients in order to enable them getting even back to work.
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