SINGAPORE - As part of measures to ensure the affordability of cancer treatments following the introduction of the Cancer Drug List on Thursday, premiums for Integrated Shield Plans (IPs) will remain unchanged for the next two years.

This applies to all IP policyholders, whether or not they are currently undergoing cancer treatment, the Life Insurance Association, Singapore (LIA) said on Friday.

The Cancer Drug List sets out clinically proven, cost-effective cancer drug treatments covered by MediShield Life insurance from Sept 1, and by all IPs from April next year.

IPs, which are offered by seven private insurance firms here, provide additional coverage beyond what is covered under MediShield Life.

Insurers will not change premiums for IPs until Aug 31, 2024, but this does not apply to premium increases for IPs announced before Friday, or riders, LIA said.

Insurers will monitor claims and adjust premiums only from September 2024, if necessary, to ensure the continued feasibility of offering IPs here, the association added.

From April next year, IP riders - or optional supplementary plans - will be redesigned to offer coverage for treatments not on the Cancer Drug List, among other benefits.

"Riders will provide varying levels of coverage at different premium rates to meet the diverse needs and budgets of IP policyholders," LIA said, adding that more details will be announced by insurers by the end of this year.

The association has developed a framework classifying different drugs not on the Cancer Drug List, grouping the treatments according to regulatory approvals and clinical guidelines.

Insurers will use these classifications to decide which treatments not on the list will be covered within their riders, the association said.

LIA noted that the framework has been prepared with input and support from bodies including the Chapter of Medical Oncologists and the Singapore Society of Oncology.

Speaking at a charity dinner held by the Singapore Cancer Society at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore hotel on Friday, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said his ministry had no objections to "purely commercial insurance products" covering treatments not on the Cancer Drug List.

Premiums for these riders will reflect the additional coverage provided, he said, noting that those who can afford them can buy them.

He added that the cost of more expensive drugs that are not on the list will not be passed on to other policyholders who are not receiving them.

Cancer patients whose IPs are up for renewal between April 1 and Sept 30 next year - and are also undergoing treatment as at the end of March 2023 - will receive transitional support from insurers.

This is aimed at those whose drugs are not on the Cancer Drug List to give them time to consider their treatment plans and switch to suitable alternatives on the list, where possible, LIA said.

"It is critical that treatment decisions are made only upon adequate consultation and discussions with doctors," the association said, adding that policyholders are encouraged to seek clarifications from their IP insurers before commencing treatment.

Insurers will provide more details on the transitional support for their IP policyholders by the end of this year.

LIA president Khor Hock Seng said the insurance sector is committed to ensuring continued access to cancer drugs in Singapore.

"We hope that these initiatives will provide IP policyholders with the support and assurance they should have amid this transition period from their IP insurers," he said.

Mr Khor said that in the longer term, IP claims costs are likely to increase due to medical inflation, inevitably resulting in increased premiums.

Regardless, IP insurers will work closely with the Ministry of Health and others to ensure cancer patients receive cost-effective, quality treatments, he added.