The C Word

Just as I’m about to head back to work, the phone rings.


“Hello, is this Michelle?”


“Hello, this is Nanditha, I’m calling on behalf of CRC bank. You have a credit card with us.”

“Yes…”, I say, as I start to wonder when my credit card was compromised, and how much someone spent at a Swedish Ikea office supplies store.

“Well Michelle”, Nanditha says. “I’m calling you to let you know about an exciting new service CRC Bank is offering you.  It’s only available to women”.

“Uh-huh”, I reply.

“We have a special cancer insurance policy for women, it covers breast cancer, cervical cancer, as well as all other cancers, and tumors. We’ll pay all your medical expenses, specialist visits…”

I try and interrupt, so not to waste Nanditha’s time, but she doesn’t give me a chance.

Finally she completes her sales pitch.

“So is this a service you would be interested in?”



“No, I have good genetics.”

“So you don’t think you’ll get cancer?”

Now Nanditha is beginning to annoy me. I appreciate she is probably some poorly paid call centre operative on commission, but she, and my bank, are playing on my deepest insecurities.

Nonetheless, I am young, with no cancer history in my family, exercise regularly, wear sunscreen, and don’t have a job in nuclear physics. Statistically, I’m unlikely to be diagnosed with cancer in the next decade of my life. I am more likely to die in a car crash, or be run over on Khyber Pass Road tomorrow morning.

However, the threat of cancer raises a dreaded shudder in most people. Although only New Zealand’s third highest killer (heart disease being the leading cause of death, accounting for 40%), most of us know someone afflicted by the disease. It’s horrible and often there is no cure. And, there is very little we can do to prevent it.

Companies offering cancer insurance are exploiting people’s innumeracy and fear of the unknown. It is, in no uncertain terms, a cash cow.

“Sorry, did you say you didn’t think you would get cancer?”, Nanditha pesters again.

“Probably not.”

“So you’re  not interested then?”

“No I am not.”

Finally she hangs up. But I spend the rest of the afternoon irritated, and anxiously debating whether that headache I had the other day, was not from consuming too much alcohol, but rather the first signs of a brain tumor.

Maybe I should have just told her I  didn’t believe in gambling?

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3 Responses to The C Word

  1. David says:

    Re health insurance: Jared Diamond in Collapse compares Dutch society where if the dyke bursts they all drown together to “current trends in the US where wealthy people increasingly seek to insulate themselves from the rest of society, aspire to create their own virtual podders, use their own money to buy services for themselves privately and vote against taxes that would extend those amenities as public services to everyone else. Those private ammenities include Living inside gated walled communities, relying on private security guards rather than on the police, sending one’s children to well-funded private schools with small classes rather than to the under funded crowded public schools, purchasing private health insurance or medical care, drinking bottled water instead of municipal water and … paying to drive on toll roads competing with the jammed public freeways. Underlying suc privatization is the misguided belief that the elite can remain unaffected by the problems of society arount them: the attitude of those Greenland Norse chiefs who found that they had merely bought themselves the privilege of being the last to starve.”

    Actually in NZ it’s not too bad. If you’re really sick you’ll get the same specialists looking after you if you are in a private or public hospital. They work across the systems (or they did a few years ago). The difference is the private hospital will provide a new nicer private room. But moves to run down the public health care system so that the private hospitals are more profitable is a worry and should be opposed.

  2. David says:

    sorry about the spelling in that last reply

  3. michelle says:

    New Zealand public health-care is not that bad no, but it is under-resourced. If you have private health-care and are diagnosed with cancer you receive treatment immediately, if you don’t you go on a waiting list.

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