Life Vs Medical Insurance: Do You Need Both?

choose life or medical insurance

It’s easy to mix them up. After all, they sound vaguely similar (something, something, provides protection?), and they sometimes come bundled together under one policy.

But it’s important to tell them apart. This helps you find gaps in your insurance coverage or determine if you are over insured.

In the post-pandemic world we live in today, having protection to ensure you have a financial safety net should anything happen is more important than ever.

So, here’s how life insurance is different compared to medical insurance.

Life insurance vs medical insurance

Life insuranceMedical insurance
FunctionHelps you or your beneficiaries financially if you experience death or total permanent disabilityHelps cover the cost of hospitalisation and treatment, or helps you financially if you experience an illness or an accident
Types- Term life
- Whole life
- Investment-linked policy
- Hospital and surgical (also known as a ‘medical card’)
- Critical illness
- Hospital income
- Personal accident
PayoutLump sum payoutDepends on type of policy – hospital and surgical insurance covers your costs ‘as is’, but other types of insurance may give you a lump sum payout
Tax reliefEligibleEligible

What is life insurance?

A life insurance policy gives you (or your beneficiaries) a lump sum payout if you experience death or total permanent disability (i.e. if you cannot work due to an illness or injury).

a) Benefits of life insurance

Having life insurance is important if you have family members who depend on your income. It helps to:

  • Cover living expenses. What happens if your family relies on your income, but you are no longer around, or you are unable to earn an income? A life insurance payout helps to cover daily expenses, such as food, housing and transport. It can also help pay off larger expenses, such as tertiary education of high-interest debt.
  • Cover death-related expenses. Dying can be expensive – funeral costs go up to thousands of ringgit. A life insurance payout can help settle these costs so that they don’t burden your family.

b) Types of life insurance

The most common types of life insurance are term life insurance, whole life insurance and investment-linked policies.

  • Term life. The most affordable type of life insurance, but your premiums increase with age. Covers you for a length of time (e.g. 20 years). There is no cash value.
  • Whole life. Covers you for your entire life (typically until age 100, but you can also choose a shorter term). More expensive than term life insurance, but your monthly premiums don’t increase with age. Has a guaranteed cash value.
  • Investment-linked policy. Also provides lifelong coverage, and is more expensive than term life insurance, but your premiums don’t increase with age. Has cash value, but depends on investment returns, so your returns are not guaranteed.

Find out more about the differences between these life insurance plans here.

What is medical insurance?

Medical insurance helps cover the cost of hospitalisation and treatment, or helps you financially if you experience an illness or an accident.

The most popular type of medical insurance is hospital and surgical – you may also know it as a ‘medical card’.

a) Benefits of medical insurance

Medical costs are high, and they are increasing every year. A hospital and surgical insurance policy helps you cover these costs. But some policies don’t cover pre-existing conditions, so make sure to check the fine print or ask your agent before subscribing.

Other types of medical insurance, such as critical illness insurance, gives you a lump sum payout that you can use however you wish. This is helpful to cover the indirect costs of illness – say, if you need a few months’ off work to recover, or if you need to fork out for special dietary requirements.

You can’t foresee when you’ll fall sick, and how much it will cost, so having medical insurance is an important safety net.

b) Types of medical insurance

  • Hospital and surgical. Covers the costs of treatment or surgery when you are admitted to a hospital.
  • Critical illness. Gives you a lump sum payout if you are diagnosed with one of the covered critical illnesses.
  • Hospital income. Gives you a specific amount of income (e.g. RM100) for each day you are hospitalised.
  • Personal accident. Gives you a lump sum payout in the event of death or disability due to an accident.

Wait, why does my life insurance plan also have medical coverage?

If you’re subscribed to an investment-linked policy, your plan may come with add-ons (also known as ‘riders) that give you medical coverage. Around 70% of medical policies that are sold in Malaysia have been sold with investment-linked products.

A standalone medical policy is much more affordable if you are a young adult, but the premiums will increase as you age. Your medical coverage also stops as soon as you stop paying your premiums.

On the other hand, an ILP that includes a medical rider will be more expensive, but its premiums won’t increase as you age. ILPs also have a cash value component, but this is not guaranteed, as it depends on investment performance. But if you stop paying your premiums, the cash value helps pay for the policy, so you may still enjoy medical insurance coverage.

Is there any tax relief?

Both life insurance and medical insurance are eligible for tax relief. But how much you can claim depends on your insurance type, and whether it’s a standalone policy:

Relief type (if filing in 2022)Limit
Life insurance and EPF INCLUDING not through salary deductionRM7,000
Insurance premium for education or medical benefit INCLUDING not through salary deductionRM3,000

If your medical insurance is a standalone policy, you can claim up to 100% of your total premium paid under the medical benefit category.

If your medical insurance is attached to your life insurance policy, you can claim up to 100% of your total premium paid under the life insurance and EPF category, or up to 60% of your total premium paid under the medical benefit category.

Check your annual policy statement for details, or ask your agent or insurance provider if you’re still unsure.

Pro tip! We’ve made finding the right insurance product a whole lot easier for you on our insurance products listing pages.

Should I get both?

Medical costs are increasing, so it’s important to get hospitalisation and surgery coverage. If you need more coverage, or coverage for specific areas, you may want to consider other medical insurance policies, such as critical illness insurance. But this depends on various factors, such as affordability, whether you have a family history associated with any of the critical illnesses covered, or if you’d feel safer knowing that you have a bigger financial safety net.

When it comes to life insurance, a major consideration is whether there are people who rely on you financially. If you are married with children, having a life insurance payout can help your family with daily expenses. If you are single – and don’t have aging parents who rely on you – it might not be necessary. However, if you expect to be married or gain dependents in the future, and you prefer ILP insurance, you might want to take out a policy now while premiums are cheaper.

This article was first published in May 2020 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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