Critical Illness Cover

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Life insurance and critical illness insurance

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What is critical illness insurance?

Critical illness cover pays out a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with an insured medical condition during the term of your policy. It’s not the same as life insurance, which pays money to a person or people you name if you pass away.

Critical illness

Do I need critical illness insurance?

Critical illness cover can offer valuable financial support if you fall ill and are forced to stop working. For example, a critical illness insurance policy pay out can be helpful for:

Tick    Mortgage payments

Tick    Lost earnings

Tick    Household bills

Tick  Private medical treatment

Do I take out critical illness cover separately to life insurance?

Most insurers offer critical illness cover as an extra you add to a life insurance policy, while some also include it as standard. You may also be able to find standalone critical illness cover, but it isn’t as common.

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What type of critical illness cover do I need?

If you take out critical illness cover on top of a life insurance policy, you’ll be able to choose between:

Additional cover

Life insurance with additional critical illness cover means you’re insured for a payout both when you pass away and if you’re diagnosed with a critical illness

Combined cover

A combined life insurance and critical illness policy will only pay out once, either when you pass away or if you’re diagnosed with a critical illness. MoneySuperMarket don’t offer a comparison service for combined life insurance and critical illness, however we do compare a range of other life insurance products 

You should also consider whether you’ll be buying the policy just for yourself or for your partner too – you’ll be able to take out joint life insurance with critical illness cover. However, you should keep in mind that these policies will usually still only pay out once – for whoever on the policy is the first to be diagnosed with a critical illness.

What does a critical illness policy cover?

The specific conditions covered by a critical illness policy will depend on your insurer and the type of cover you take out, but you can generally expect the same core conditions to be included – such as:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Some types of cancer

Some critical illness policies might cover certain types of conditions, or conditions at a certain level of seriousness – for example, different types or stages of cancer. You should check for sure if other conditions are covered, some critical illness policies do not cover the following:

  • Organ failures
  • Organ transplants
  • Permanent disabilities resulting from an illness or injury
  • Traumatic head injuries
  • Parkinson’s

The more comprehensive critical illness policies available often cover around 40 to 50 conditions listed on their policy documents – it’s always important to read these before taking cover out.

How much does life insurance cost with critical illness cover?

Around a quarter of all people who take out life insurance with MoneySuperMarket add critical illness cover to their policy, and they pay on average just over £12 more per month than those who do not. 

Couples deciding between individual and joint policies should consider that, over the last year, the average single life insurance policy with critical illness cover cost £26 a month – and the average joint policy cost £47. While there are other factors involved, you could see a small saving when you buy a joint policy instead of two individual policies.

The other factors that affect your critical illness and life insurance premiums include:

Additional cover

The earlier you take out critical illness cover the cheaper it generally is – people aged between 18 and 25 pay on average just over £18 per month for cover, compared with just under £30 for people aged 31 to 35 and over £45 for people aged 46 to 50

Your health and medical history

Insurers will generally have a look at your medical history to determine how at risk you are of becoming ill, and they’ll take this into account when deciding your premiums

Your occupation

Insurers will generally have a look at your medical history to determine how at risk you are of becoming ill, and they’ll take this into account when deciding your premiums

Your lifestyle

Some lifestyle habits, such as whether or not you use nicotine products, also affect what you pay for critical illness cover

Your level of cover

Likewise the more cover you add to your policy the more it’ll cost in premiums

As there are different factors that affect the cost of critical illness cover, comparing quotes online is the easiest way to find the cheapest available deal. This way you’ll be sure you’re getting the amount of cover you need for the best price possible.

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Can I get critical illness insurance for my partner too?

You’ll also be able to take critical illness cover out for yourself and your partner with a joint policy. Some joint policies pay out for both of you, but some allow just a single claim. It might be the case that your policy will only pay out the first time either of you make a claim.

Can I get critical illness cover for my children?

Some insurers offer automatic cover for your children under their critical illness policy, while others may add family cover at a lower cost – either way you should check beforehand if you think it’s something you might need.

What you should keep an eye out for is the amount of cover your child will get – it could be a range, a set amount or even a specific percentage of the amount of cover you have for yourself.

How much critical illness cover do I need?

When you consider the level of cover you take out on your critical illness policy, you should factor in the level of financial support your dependants would need if you weren’t able to provide an income as a result of your illness. For example, you should think about:

  • How much your household would need without your income
  • How much remains on your mortgage or any other debts
  • How much you can afford to pay every month for cover

Can I change the level of cover I have during the policy term?

Most insurers will let you adjust the level of cover you have with your policy, as well as the duration of the policy term and any extras you might want to add or remove. However you shouldn’t automatically assume this is the case – check with your insurer to be certain.

If I don’t make a claim throughout the policy term do I get money back?

Your critical illness policy is unlikely to have a cash-in clause, either during or at the end of the term.

If I have critical illness cover as part of life insurance, what happens if I claim?

If you have combined critical illness cover as part of your life insurance policy you’ll only get one pay-out – which means if you claim for a critical illness your life insurance policy will end.

However, if you have additional critical illness cover with your life insurance policy, you’ll get a pay-out both when you’re diagnosed with the illness and when you pass away.

Are the any restrictions on how I can spend the money paid out?

The purpose of the lump sum is generally to pay for medical costs or treatment to improve your quality of life, but you’re free to spend it however you would like.

How many critical illnesses can I claim for?

Your chosen insurer will have a list of all the critical conditions covered on your policy on their website. The conditions covered can vary significantly between insurers and policies, so read the small print.

Can I claim on my critical illness policy more than once?

The purpose of the lump sum is generally to pay for medical costs or treatment to improve your quality of life, but you’re free to spend it however you would like.

Can I get cover for pre-existing conditions?

Not all insurers will offer critical illness cover if you have a pre-existing condition, and you may have to pay more in premiums for the policy. If you do have a pre-existing condition you should always declare it, or your insurer might refuse any future claims you make.


What is terminal illness cover?

Terminal illness cover is different to critical illness cover, and is usually included as standard in life insurance policies. It means your insurer pays out if your doctor has confirmed you have a terminal condition and you’re likely to pass away within 12 months.

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