Cindy Frantzeskos, Director of Employee Benefits at BDO
“It is not until it hits home, that you truly appreciate and understand the importance of risk benefit cover”. This is how Cindy Frantzeskos, Director of Employee Benefits at BDO, reflects when she relates the story of her sister who died of cancer.
“On 24 May 2015, my sister phoned me at work and said she was at the hospital in excruciating pain and that they thought she had - she was too embarrassed to tell me – Piles. I immediately thought she was having a nervous breakdown as she was dealing with the tragedy of losing a son, but when we heard piles, we didn’t make much of it because she was not a sickly person, and seldom took time off work due to illness. Typical of Sharon to be embarrassed about Piles.”
After a colonoscopy was done at the hospital, the doctor said it was actually Cancer and that they wanted to operate immediately. In a state of shock, Frantzeskos told her sister to go for a second opinion, “I just wanted to make sure she got the correct diagnosis and that all was ok. From piles to cancer – it just didn’t sound right.”
Begrudgingly, she did get a second opinion and the news was “devastating for the entire family. We found out she had stage four cancer”, said Frantzeskos. “All my life I have been selling insurance and I have seen first-hand, with my sister and others, how having a dread disease cover, death cover and life cover can really make a difference.”
When diagnosed with cancer, her disability cover was immediately activated, and that meant she could stay at home and focus on getting better. She was able to get her salary every month for three months. After the three months, her cover then paid her 75% of her salary tax free. “She could focus on getting the treatment she needed and not have to worry about how she was going to sustain her lifestyle. Over and above that, her Dread insurance also paid out one times her annual salary, tax-free”, said Frantzeskos. Employees who have benefits need to understand their plan’s procedures for claims, paying close attention to time limits.
It was only after a visit to her sister that she truly realised just how her sister’s fortunes would have been vastly different if she was not working for a company that had such extensive employee benefits. She told her, “Cindy! Do you realise how things would have been so different for me if I didn’t have an income since being at home? It would have meant I would have lost my house, car and either moved in with you or my in-laws. Having dread disease and disability cover has helped pull everything together, while I focus on my health,” related Frantzeskos.
Her sister also had medical cover, another employee benefit which afforded her the best treatment during her fight with cancer. But unfortunately, on the 28th of December of the same year, Frantzeskos sister lost her battle to cancer and died. But due to excellent financial management and belonging to a company that has employee benefits, her estate was able to pay off her bond, her son’s student loan and ensure that those she left behind were not financially disadvantaged. There was also death cover of three times her annual salary payable on her death - tax free benefit
There are many different types of health benefit plans. Employees need to find out find out what their employer offers, then match their needs and preferences with the available plans. It is imperative for employees to gauge if the plans on offer are important to them. This also includes regular assessments of their benefits as their health or family status changes. How much the employee will be paying out of pocket for these benefits is also a question they need to ask.
One needs to be aware that changing jobs can means that they may lose the benefits they are currently receiving from their employer.
It is not all doom and gloom for those working in companies that do not offer these benefits, and the onus is on them to ensure that their most valuable asset: their salary.
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