Friday 16 August 2013

Income launches first insurance scheme for autistic kids, youth

By Kash Cheong, The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2013

SINGAPORE'S first insurance scheme for autistic children and young adults was launched by NTUC Income yesterday.

SpecialCare (Autism) is also believed to be the first such plan for autistic people in the world.

Accident rates for autistic people are two to three times higher than for others, according to NTUC Income.

This is why parents who wanted to buy insurance for their autistic children previously faced rejection, or were barred from claiming for incidents arising from autism, it said. Some parents even bought policies without declaring their child's condition.

NTUC Income worked with Autism Resource Centre (ARC) to develop the insurance plan. With the new policy, "there is nothing to fear and nothing to hide", said ARC president Denise Phua, an MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC.

An "honest product" like this new policy enables parents to declare autism outright, she added, calling this a "significant step" which "paves the way for the industry to look into similar persons with other special needs".

ARC, which estimates there are about 31,000 autistic people in Singapore, will fund the first year's premiums for autistic children and young adults from the lowest 10 per cent income group.

There are two versions of the scheme. A yearly premium of $198 gives a lifetime claim limit of up to $100,000. For $352 a year, the limit is up to $150,000.

Similar policies for able-bodied people cost about $100 a year. But they do not permit claims for things like mobility aids, physiotherapy and caregiver training arising from accidents. The plan also allows claims for accident-related costs such as hospitalisation fees, disability and death.

There is also coverage for medical expenses due to infectious diseases like dengue fever and hand, foot and mouth disease. Those between 15 days and 30 years old can apply, and the policy can be renewed up to the age of 75.

NTUC Income wanted to make essential insurance accessible and affordable to all, including the autistic community, said chief executive Tan Suee Chieh.

This is the company's first foray into special needs but it is open to looking at more possibilities in this category, he added.

Parents of autistic children welcomed the new policy. "It buys me peace of mind now that I can insure my son," said housewife Wu Yujin, 41, who faced rejection before when she tried to insure her nine-year-old son.

Ms Grace Sulu, 42, spends several thousand dollars a year on speech therapy and applied behavioural therapy courses for her autistic son. "It is idealistic but I hope that more help can be considered for these costs as they are recurring."

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