The Online Citizen

Knee injury is beyond CPF's risk appetite

September 12
10:19 2013

By Gangasudhan -

As is with any type of insurance, a person’s current health is a consideration when applying for coverage, and it must be determined if the person is at high risk of becoming “permanently incapacitated or die prematurely before the age of 65″ – in which case the insurance coverage will be denied. But to deny coverage under the Home Protection Scheme (HPS) for someone who is otherwise in perfect health and leads an active lifestyle – that includes managing the school’s soccer team?

Well, that is exactly what happened to a teacher in his 30′s, who was told to re-apply “after you have undergone and fully recovered from your ACL surgery”. Far from life-threatening, he suffered a knee injury 2 years ago and has been actively trying to manage his recovery via non-invasive methods such as physiotherapy and weight training to strengthen the supporting muscles around the affected knee. With 2 young children and aged parents-in-law to look after, he has opted not to have the surgery due to the cost involved and the lengthy recovery period that will inevitably lead to adverse consequences in his career progression.

It is quite obvious that a knee injury of this type would not lead to permanent disability that would put an individual out of work permanently (or premature death before the age of 65, for that matter), and so the decision by CPF not to grant coverage begs the question of how many ‘otherwise healthy’ individuals have had their HPS cover denied on account of such paper-thin justifications.

rejection_cpf

Rejection letter from CPF

What You Should Know About HPS

This unpalatable incident though brings to light some interesting ‘did you know‘ facts about the HPS, such as the reality that homeowners are not legally compelled to take the HPS coverage itself, but rather that they are required to have some form of mortgage insurance only. Thus, if you get a home insurance coverage from a private insurance company or bank that covers the amount of your mortgage, then you can simply write in to CPF and cancel the HPS ‘protection’.

Another interesting fact is that the HPS DOES NOT cover critical illnesses – hence, you can either die or become permanently and totally disabled to receive something, but woe betide you should you suffer a major disease because no claim will be paid out! The cover is also (amazingly, in this day and age of updated insurance practices) not transferable from property to property, thus the moment you sell your flat, you will be required to apply for a fresh HPS coverage for any new flat purchase – which means the premium will be based on the age-at-purchase (read: definitely higher). Private mortgage insurance, on the other hand, can be customized to the needs of the individual, including the coverage for critical illness in addition to total permanent disability and death, plus it is transferable – meaning the same premium amount can continue from one property to the next (or slightly adjusted if a higher mortgage loan amount is taken for the subsequent property).

Apparently, those who are more familiar with insurance options tend to go for private mortgage insurance rather than the HPS as better coverage can be secured for about the same premium amount. While the HPS application is tied in as a subset of the flat purchase process, it can actually be cancelled easily using the exemption application option on the CPF website (login via SingPass).

But this option seems to work predominately for the savvy tech-crowd and the well-informed. For the low-income homeowners meanwhile, the potential for premium subsidies as well as the ability to pay the premiums through the CPF ordinary account may very well take precedence over the actual quality of coverage (or lack thereof).

Reform of Home Protection Scheme Badly Needed

It therefore seems more sensible to allow homeowners the flexibility of using their CPF monies to pay for mortgage insurance purchased from private insurance companies or banks – especially if the coverage can be more comprehensive for the same premium amount as the HPS. The affected teacher in this particular case eventually jumped through the requisite hoops to support his case (i.e. make an appointment with his specialist consultant, get the necessary documentation from the doctor, and then submit everything to CPF as an appeal against the decision) and so wasn’t too affected – other than the annoyance and hassle, of course.

However, for low-income homeowners, such a narrow scope of coverage puts them more at risk than they have to be and ultimately may lead to a family catastrophe which could have otherwise been avoided. It is perhaps (high) time for the CPF to relook the HPS and either bring it up to industry standards or open it up for the benefit of its stakeholder – the members who are basically being short-changed.

______________________

For more information direct from the proverbial horse’s mouth,
please visit CPF’s FAQ on the HPS (including exemptions) at:
http://ask-us.cpf.gov.sg/efa/index.htm?isBrowsingTree=1&initCollectionID=381844984100003911

If you have been similarly denied HPS coverage due to what you believe to be an irrelevant injury or circumstance, please email this writer at ganga@theonlinecitizen.com.

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  • BT

    But Ganga, how much does HPS cost?

    And as you mentioned, you can go purchase an alternative coverage, one that is more comprehensive…… and at a higher price.

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