Choosing between Early Stage Critical Illness Cover or Regular CI Cover? [The easiest choice ever]

Posted 24 October, 2019 by Clearly
in Stellar Guidance

The year is 2019. Two centuries after the passing of Adam Smith (The founding father of economics), we are still faced with the classic problem of scarcity: Too little resources, yet so much insurance to purchase.

Within the realm of Life Insurance, there are these 7 principal categories of cover to take care of:

Total and Permanent Disability
Disability Income
Personal Accident
Critical Illness
Early Stage Critical Illness

This article is going to provide clarity between the last two items on that list, which is suspected of plaguing many an economically constrained Singaporean.


Why the special emphasis on Critical illness? If you haven’t heard, Singaporeans have a huge gap coverage in that area.

With the double whammy of a longer life expectancy, coupled with poor lifestyle choices leading to deteriorating health, critical illnesses are afflicting – and killing – more of us than ever before.

Insurers are churning out Critical illness and Early Stage Critical illness products with an unholy fervour, with product launches almost every other month.


Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?


Nope, you’re on to something. People are starting to notice. (kudos if you know the reference to this line. Shout out in the comments if you need help with this)

And those products come in every shape and form of an insurance product: as a rider, a standalone plan, a cancer-only coverage plan, as a single pay plan, and as a multipay plan. Maybe we’ll soon see a standalone, multipay, cancer-only plan. Who knows, this industry is only that creative.


Regardless, the explosion of choices reflects the ever-growing need and severe protection gap that exists – which might be the reason you are here in the first place.

How in the world does someone choose between Early Stage Critical Illness (ECI) vs Regular Critical Illness cover? Most budgets for insurance is limited, and something has got to give.

Let’s dig a little bit deeper before we make a decision.


First up: What is regular Critical Illness cover?


The plain vanilla version of critical illness protection that has existed for a long, long time.

It is so plain vanilla that the Life Insurance Association of Singapore has a standardized list of conditions and definitions that every insurer must adhere to when selling those plans. LIA recently refreshed those definitions and all insurers need to adopt them by August 26, 2020.


The current version has a full list of 37 Critical illnesses, among which are major cancers.



My summary: The cancer must be really close to killing you for a claim to happen


Two interesting points to note:

1. Note that benign tumours are not covered under this definition. Also – if the cancer is discovered “too early” or diagnosed as “pre-malignant” – these cases are not eligible for regular CI claims.

2. The top 5 CIs on the LIA list account for over 90% of severe stage claims, in a 2012 – 2015 study by Gen Re. Coincidence? Hardly.


Regular CI cover is meant for diseases of a specified or advanced stage of severity, usually more life-threatening than not.

This sets us up nicely to uncover what ECI cover is. (Probably everything else not covered under the regular version)


What then is Early Stage Critical Illness Cover?


Just like what it says on the tin, ECI cover gives protection to the earlier stages of various critical illnesses. But this is where is get divergent from the regular CI cover because there is no unifying set of definitions by LIA when it comes to ECI.

The results? Varied terms and conditions as set by each insurer. We list three here for reference.


Tokio Marine’s TM EarlyCover

119 medical conditions or procedures comprising

  • 99 critical illnesses from different stages of severity – early, intermediate and advanced
  • 10 Special Conditions
  • 10 Juvenile Conditions
  • Waiver of future premiums upon diagnosis of an early or intermediate stage critical illness


Manulife’s ReadyCompleteCare


Aviva’s Living Care Plus (Under the SAF Group Insurance scheme)

Coverage against 10 early critical illnesses:

1. Early Cancer
2. Surgery to Aorta / Aortic Aneurysm
3. Implantable Heart Device / Early Cardiomyopathy / Pericardectomy
4. Primary Pulmonary Hypertension
5. Transmyocardial Laser Revascularisation or Insertion of Vena-cava Filter
6. Kidney Removal
7. Heart Valve Repair Surgery
8. Small Intestine / Corneal Transplant
9. Mild Coronary Artery Disease
10. Brain Aneurysm Surgery / Insertion of Cerebral Shunt


So when push comes to shove: What gives?


Back to the original headache: Which type of cover should I choose?

ECI coverage is generally more expensive, due to the higher probability of occurrence. Yet after we pass a certain age of maturity – both physical and mental – regular health screenings should catch many illnesses or tumours before they become deadly.

The advancements in medical technology allow doctors to screen for critical illnesses far earlier than before and deal with them correspondingly.

So for me, there is no question about it:


Both are equally important


Personally I have regular CI coverage worth 4 years annual income, and 1 year worth of ECI coverage. This way, at any stage of a CI diagnosis, I would be able to pay for treatments (in conjunction with my fully upgraded Medishield Integrated Plan) and not worry about income during the recovery period.

A well known Financial Planner by the name of Jiale puts it most aptly with regards to ECI:


“… to have an insurance portfolio without Early Cover is like having a table with 3 legs.

The table can still stand, yes. But if the impact hits the wrong corner, the table will topple without a doubt.”


You can check out his video on ECI here, which covers specific examples of early-stage payouts, along with more pithy quotes:


MONEYMAP 050 (What is Early Stage Critical Illness?)

| What is Early Stage Critical Illness? |What's the difference between Early CI and Advanced CI? And why experts say it's increasingly important to get covered?

Posted by Jiale Financial Planning on Saturday, 5 October 2019


With that, we leave you here with but one more gem: This is how to saunter out with all the new-found knowledge:


Make up is optional aims to eradicate the knowledge gap between consumers and Life Insurance. Our Vision is that one day, every Man, Woman, and Child will be properly insured.

We are also in the midst of building a top-secret new platform that will change the way people view financial planning. PS. It does not contain lame hyperboles like “fintech” or “insurtech” or “machine-learning” or “AI”.

Leave a Reply