Cancer insurance

According to the Philippine Cancer Society, in 2012, at least 13 out of 100 males and 14 out of 100 females in the Philippines would have some form of cancer if they lived up to age 75. Eleven out of 100 males and seven out of 100 females would die from cancer before the age of 75. One out of two Filipino cancer patients die within a year after diagnosis. According to the Cancer Coalition Philippines (CCP), seven Filipino adults are dying of cancer every hour. According to the World Health Organization, the number of cancer cases in the Philippines for 2018 was 141,021, with 86,337 deaths. Cancer is now the third-leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the Philippines, after communicable diseases and cardiovascular diseases.

Globally, it was estimated that there were 18.1 million new cases of cancer and 9.6 million deaths due to cancer in 2018.The global figures for the so-called five-year prevalence, meaning those who are still alive within five years of a cancer diagnosis, was estimated at 43.8 million people in 2018.For the Southeast Asian region, it was estimated that there were 770,000 new cases of cancer and 527,000 cancer deaths in 2012. It is estimated that new cases will rise by about 70 percent by 2030 to reach 1.3 million.

According to the CCP, the five most frequent types of cancer are that of breast, lung, liver, prostate and cervix uteri.For males, the most common cancer are lung (14.5 percent), prostate (13.5 percent), colorectal (10.9 percent), liver (10.2 percent), stomach (9.5 percent), others include leukemia, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. For females, the most common are breast (24.2 percent), cervix uteri, lung, ovary and thyroid. Worldwide, breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer among women. But the Philippines had the highest prevalence of breast cancer among 197 countries in 2016.

While many types of cancer are curable, survivorship rates in the Philippines is low. For women suffering from breast cancer, survivorship rate is at 63 percent, while it is 89 percent for Americans. For men suffering from prostate cancer, survivorship rate is 47 percent, while it is 89 percent for Australians. For childhood leukemia, survivorship rate is only 27 percent, while it is 92 percent in Germany.

Financially catastrophic

A chemotherapy treatment can range from P100,000 to P150,000 per session. The financial burden of cancer treatment can be catastrophic. The more advanced the cancer stage upon diagnosis,the odds of death is five times more and the odds of financial catastrophe is 50 percent higher. In a study by the George Institute for Global Health, it was found that after one year from diagnosis, 48 percent of patients will experience financial catastrophe. At least 44 percent of patients who had no hardship within the first 12 months would experience hardship after 12 months for having used up their savings. More alarmingly, older patients (more than 65 years) were more likely to experience financial catastrophe and death than patients under 45 years. Financial catastrophe can be predicted with low income being the key factor and lower education levels being “significantly associated” with higher odds of death and financial catastrophe. And most important, perhaps, those without some form of health insurance were more likely to experience financial catastrophe than those with insurance.

Optimistic view

Cancer, if detected early, is preventable and treatable. Researchers have estimated that over half of cancer cases, and over half of cancer deaths, are preventable. However, there is a low cancer prevention consciousness in the Philippines. Hence, the greatest barrier to cancer avoidance is delayed diagnosis. According to Dr. Tran van Thuan of Vietnam, “Around 70 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer are already at stage three or four, leaving the percentage of those who can be effectively treated low.”Under Republic Act 11215, or the National Integrated Cancer Control Act, cancer patients and survivors will be considered as Persons with Disabilities and shall enjoy all the benefits accordingly. Together with the mandated Philippine Cancer Center under the Cancer Control Act, the Ayala Healthcare Holdings Inc. (AC Health) will be introducing the first cancer specialty hospital in the Philippines at an investment of around P2 billion.

Cancer insurance products in PHL

The usual health insurance products do not cover instances of cancer. This makes the procurement of cancer insurance imperative. In most instances, those with preexisting cancer may not be eligible for coverage. There are several insurers offering cancer coverage in the Philippines. Philam Life offers “Cancer Life Shield,” an annually renewable health insurance plan which covers expenses incurred due to cancer. Sun Life cancer insurance policy provides fixed benefits for early detection and treatment of cancer. Benefits are paid directly to the insured. FWD Life Philippines offers “Fight Plan,” a cancer protection plan that guarantees 15 years of financial support upon diagnosis with benefits of up to P2 million.



Dennis B. Funa is the current insurance commissioner. Funa was appointed by President Duterte as the new insurance commissioner in December 2016. E-mail:


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