What is critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover is a kind of sickness insurance which could help protect your future and your loved ones. If you have critical illness insurance and you’re diagnosed with a serious illness, you’ll receive a tax-free payout.

How would a critical illness cover payout help?

A payout from your insurer could help to support you and/or your family in a life-changing situation. Your illness could leave you unable to work, and a sickness insurance payout could help towards your outgoings. You get to decide how you spend it but you might choose to spend it on:

Mortgage payments

Private medical treatment

Household bills

Lost earnings.

What illnesses are covered by sickness insurance?

Every critical illness policy is different, but each has a list of conditions attached to it. If you’re diagnosed with an illness that’s listed on your policy, you’ll be able to make a claim and receive a payment.

You’ll find that all critical illness cover includes the following illnesses. That’s because then Association of British Insurers (ABI) enforces these as the minimum. However, the illness does have to be a certain level of severity for you to be covered:


Heart attacks


Critical illness insurance, UK wide, also pays out if you’ve been diagnosed with a life-changing illness that’s not likely to result in death. For example, it would usually cover Alzheimer’s disease or a major organ transplant. Most critical illness policies also cover permanent disability caused by illness or injury.

If you want critical illness insurance for a certain condition, look for a policy that covers it before you apply.

Insurers have different definitions of critical illness and terminal illness. A terminal illness is when you’ve been given 12 months or less to live. This is usually covered separately under life insurance.

How is critical health insurance different from life insurance?

Illness insurance gives you a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses listed on your policy. It doesn’t pay out for existing conditions, or if you die suddenly. The payout can be spent how you like but, for many people, it pays for outgoings if they can’t work. Others spend it on medical treatment.

If you want insurance that covers sudden death, you’ll need to find critical life insurance.

Critical life cover pays out a lump sum when you die and the money goes to someone you’ve chosen to receive it. It’s a way to protect your loved ones when you’re no longer around and it can be reassuring if you’re the main earner in your family. Compare life insurance policies here.

Some life insurance policies offer critical illness cover as an added extra. That means it’s a good idea to compare life and critical illness insurance when you’re looking for a policy to see what’s available. It’s important to find the best life and critical illness cover you can. Just use the form linked to this page and compare life and critical illness cover today.

How many times does critical illness insurance pay out?

Critical illness cover, UK wide, only pays out once. Remember that once you’ve had a payout, the policy ends. That means you’ll no longer have a critical health insurance policy.

It’s important to find the right policy that would take care of all your financial needs if the worst happened.

But, if you have life insurance and have added critical health insurance to that, it’s a different situation. You’ll get a payout when you die and also if you’re diagnosed with a critical illness.

If you’ve got combined cover, it’ll still only pay out once – either when you die or when you’re diagnosed with a critical illness.

Do I need critical illness cover?

This depends on your situation. Someone who has enough savings to pay for everything if they couldn’t work might decide they don’t need critical illness cover. The same might apply to someone whose partner could pay for everything, or someone who has cover as part of an employee benefits scheme.

But critical illness insurance might give you peace of mind if your situation is different. If you don’t have enough savings, or an employee package with good sickness protection, then critical illness cover might be a good idea.

State benefits might not be enough to cover all your outgoings if you were unable to work.

How much critical illness cover do I need?

When you get a critical illness quote don’t forget to check how much you could claim. Every insurer has a limit on how much you claim. Usually, cover starts at £25,000.

You’ll want to find the best critical illness cover you can. Before you go ahead, there are a few things worth thinking about.

Firstly, look at which health conditions are covered. All policies cover strokes, cancer and heart attacks but others cover up to 114 other health conditions.

Secondly, to find the best critical illness insurance, think about how long you want your policy to last. Every insurer has a maximum time you can have a policy for or a maximum age.

Lastly, think about your age. The older you are, the harder it’ll be to get critical illness cover. Some insurers won’t cover people who are over a certain age, such as 59 or above.

All of this also affect the price of your critical illness insurance so remember this when you do your critical illness cover comparison. You’ll pay premiums throughout the term of your critical illness policy.

If you want cover that’s unlimited, or ends when you reach a certain age, you could look into ‘whole of life’ critical illness cover instead.

Can I get a joint critical illness policy?

Critical illness insurance usually covers just one person. But you can find joint policies, which cover yourself and a partner.

If you have a joint critical illness insurance policy with your partner, it’s likely to only pay out once. It’ll pay out for whoever is the first to be diagnosed with a critical illness.

There are also family policies, which cover yourself, your partner and your children.

You’ll need to decide on which is the best critical illness cover for your needs.

How to apply for critical health insurance

To find the best critical illness cover and apply for it, you’ll need to follow a few simple steps.

First, decide on your cover. Use the information above to decide what you need from your cover.

When you’ve chosen the best critical illness cover quote for your needs, you’ll be ready to apply for your cover. You can usually do this online or over the phone but some insurers offer a face-to-face service too.

How to find the best critical illness insurance

The way to find the best critical illness cover, UK wide, is to do a good critical illness insurance comparison. Then you’ll be able to find the right kind of cover to provide for you when you need it most.

What information will my critical illness cover quote be based on?

When you compare critical illness insurance, the insurer will look at the information you share. Then they’ll give you a critical illness insurance quote. This’ll be based on:

Your age

Your health and medical history

Your lifestyle

The cover you’ve chosen/how much cover you want

How much you’re happy to pay each month

How long you want to pay it for

Any terms and conditions.

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