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Critical Illness Cover

When you face uncertainty, any degree of reliability in your life goes a long way. So, if you’ve been diagnosed with a serious illness with an outlook of uncertain days ahead, Critical Illness Cover is there to help. When you are in the position of focusing on your physical recovery as a priority, the last thing you need is having to worry about your financial security. Critical Illness Cover can provide that peace of mind you are looking for. On diagnosis of a serious medical condition such as a heart attack, stroke, or cancer, this insurance policy provides a lump-sum payment so that bills, mortgages, and other living expenses can be met, whilst you put your attention to beating your illness.

This might not be something you have thought of previously. However, perhaps now you have reached a certain point in your life when increased living expenses, mortgage payments, dependents and other responsibilities mean it is prudent to consider making plans for the future.

Serious illness can impede your ability to work, and without a regular income, it could be hard to make ends meet. Critical Illness cover can take care of that and your loved ones financially, so depending on your life circumstances, could well make sense to look into. Even as a healthy individual who is ordinarily outside any risk group for certain illnesses, your family history could be an underlying indicator of certain unknowns. That being the case, talking to an expert and looking into obtaining a Critical Illness policy will go some way in mitigating the risk of a serious illness disrupting your life more than it has to.

What is Critical Illness Cover?

Critical Illness Cover is designed to ease a person’s financial burden if they are diagnosed with a serious illness. The illnesses covered will always be noted on the policy documentation, and will vary from insurer to insurer. Whilst premiums will be paid on a monthly or annual basis, Critical Illness pays out in one tax-free lump-sum. This will enable you and any dependents you have to benefit and rectify any concerns from a debt or future financial perspective. The money can be used in any way you see fit: mortgage payments, living costs, a wellness trip abroad, or even put aside for your child’s future. Whatever it is used for, a Critical illness cover payout will come when you need it most, and go some way to alleviating an area of potential anxiety.

What does it cover?

The product offerings will vary policy to policy, provider to provider, so it is imperative that policy documentation is carefully checked so that you know what you are covered for. If you have any queries on what is included or excluded, the key facts document should provide a clear summary. If it fails to do so, check with the insurance company, or indeed engage with an expert in order to gain clarification on what you are covered for.

Most policies should cover (depending on your medical history) at least the three “core” illnesses of stroke, cancer and heart attack. There are also additional illnesses that again, whilst not necessarily uniform in every insurance policy, are more common. This can include the following:

Typical Conditions Covered

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Aortic surgery
  • Aplastic anaemia
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Benign brain tumour
  • Blindness
  • Cancer (life-threatening)
  • Coma
  • Coronary artery- bypass surgery
  • Deafness
  • Heart attack
  • Heart valve replacement
  • Kidney failure
  • Loss of independent existence
  • Loss of limbs
  • Loss of speech
  • Major organ transplant
  • Major organ failure on waiting list
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Occupational HIV infection
  • Paralysis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Severe burns
  • Stroke (Cerebrovascular accident)

There will also be definitions within the policy wording that particular illnesses have to meet, and a certain level of severity of the condition diagnosed. For example, your policy might only cover a stroke that resulted in symptoms lasting for at least one day. You might also find smaller payouts for less advanced illnesses that are not perhaps as serious in nature as they could be.

Of course, the number of conditions covered depends on the insurance provider, and whilst one insurer might provide fifty, another could list eighty. Do check your policies and compare so you know that you have the coverage you need.

How does it work?

Critical Illness policies are very much subject to their policy-holder’s own circumstances, such as individual lifestyle and medical history. Similarly the policyholder is able to be flexible on the coverage they want.

When applying for Critical Illness, you must choose how much cover you want in terms of the lump-sum payment in the event of a claim, and how long you want that protection for.

The monetary amount of insurance you buy can be guided by why you’ve purchased this policy in the first place. If your financial outlays are a young family, a mortgage to pay off and also a large income at risk, then you might want to look at purchasing as much as possible within your budget. If you have less dependents, but just have a more risk averse nature where you look to secure financial protection where you can, then you might opt for an amount that covers your living expenses only.

Do note that the amount of insurance you buy will determine how much your monthly premiums are - these will be paid over the amount of time you have chosen for your critical illness cover to be valid for.

What Will Affect the Price of my Premiums?

Your age will determine to a certain extent the cost of your monthly premium. The younger you are, the lower your premiums will be, and vice versa. There are some insurers who have a maximum age limit, with some not offering coverage past the age of 70.

There will also be other factors that insurance providers will take into account when you are filling out your application:

  • Height/Weight
  • Smoking habits (never/used to but stopped/e-cigarettes etc)
  • Family Medical History of Serious Illness
  • Addiction or Substance Abuse history
  • Lifestyle pursuits (scuba/army/sailing/mountaineering etc)
  • Historical Driving bans
  • Mental Health (depression/anxiety/self harm)
  • Physical Health questions (heart attack/stroke/cancer)
  • Does your job involve any dangerous working environments?

Another factor will be the type of cover you elect to purchase. While most policies offer a “level” or fixed monthly payments for the policy duration, there are two further options:

  1. Increasing cover: your premiums, and your lump-sum payout, rises in line with inflation. If the policy is taken out over a long period of time, or indeed during global economic worries, this is a way to ensure the value of the payout will still meet your financial needs without losing its worth over time. Whilst your monthly costs go up, the lump-sum payout in the event of a claim remains also increases, leaving your relative financial protection intact.
  2. Decreasing cover: here your premium payments are fixed, but your potential payout reduces over time. This will give you a cheaper premium option, and is useful when your primary financial concern is the ability to pay your mortgage or any other repayment loan, that also reduces in time.

Premium Cost: Case Study

Premiums will vary depending on your life circumstance and personal details. However, as an example, here are the options and quotes for a 30 year old, taking out a combined policy with Life Insurance, a common way of purchasing Critical Illness Cover.

Assumptions are:

  • Non-smoker
  • Good health
  • Non-dangerous job or do not take part in dangerous activities
  • Do not take any non-prescription drugs
  • No history of serious illness to the applicant or their immediate family
  • Looking for £100,000 of combined Life and Critical Illness Cover, for the period of 25 years.
Insurer Monthly Cost Online Application Cover During Application Process Set-Up Speed Child Critical Illness Included Cover for Total and Permanent Disability
Zurich £29.24 Yes Yes 6-20 Days No No
Aviva £32.06 No Yes Up to 5 Days Yes Yes
Legal and General £32.37 Yes Yes Up to 5 Days Yes No
Royal London £38.92 Yes Yes Up to 5 Days Yes Yes
AIG £38.53 Yes Yes Up to 5 Days Yes Yes

Who can get Critical Illness Cover?

In order to purchase a critical illness policy, you should be at least over 18 years old. If you are looking for coverage for the younger members of your family there are policy enhancements many insurers provide. Most Critical Illness policies offer an option where the children of a policyholder also qualify for a payout should they get diagnosed with a critical illness. It is important to consult your policy document, insurance provider, or an independent expert to confirm that this coverage is available. Also, just as there is a minimum age, there will also be a maximum age limit for many insurance providers which you must be under when you apply. This is usually set at 60 years old. However, a potential policy-holder’s eligibility criteria can differ depending on the insurer chosen, so if you can’t get the cover you want the first time, do shop around.

If you have a partner, you might also look not only at a single policy, but a joint policy which could be more cost effective in covering yourself and your significant other.

Do you need critical illness cover?

Government welfare is available to many to help when someone is displaced from their job and income for whatever reason. However, this state allowance might not be enough to replace your income if you are in a high-earning job or have many financial responsibilities to maintain.

Currently, Universal Credit pays out a maximum of £600 a month, depending on your circumstances. For many people, especially if they have mortgage payments or other long term loans, this will not be enough to maintain their lifestyle if they lose their job even in ordinary circumstances. With the diagnosis of a serious illness, one might be out of a job in the long-term, or need additional income for private medical care. Either way, the lump-sum payout will provide a certain degree of financial relief, especially if you don’t have the savings to tide you over.

FAQ’s

What is a critical illness?

Each insurer has a list of conditions covered, and it is not always the case that every list is the same. What is determined to be a critical illness for one, might not be a critical illness for another. This being the case it is important to look at your policy documents, and also the insurer’s own definitions on what constitutes a particular illness. Again, whilst general terminology between insurers might be the same, the specific definitions might be different.

How much limit do I need?

The size of payout you choose to purchase can lie anywhere between the insurer’s maximum and minimum limits available. What this sum is completely depends on your own situation, budget available and the level of cover you want.

A good starting point is to calculate your monthly expenses such as mortgage repayments, utility bills, and other living costs. In addition to your monthly expenses, you might add an additional lump sum for private medical costs or future benefit for your children. Subtract from this amount any other possible income, assets and benefits, and you will be lift with a much better idea of what limit you should purchase.

Why Would I Not Purchase Critical Illness Cover?

  • If you have a partner whose salary is able to cover living expenses and mortgages without your income
  • If you have enough savings to comfortably cover living expenses
  • If your job offers a benefit package that covers you in case of long-term illness or disability

Does critical illness cover pay off my mortgage?

A critical illness payout will be received in one tax-free lump-sum and can be used in whatever way the policyholder wants. This can include mortgage payments. Where the policyholder might be limited is in the amount of cover they have chosen to purchase, so it is important that one makes sure they purchase enough Critical Illness Cover to meet this risk.

Is Critical Illness Cover the same as life insurance?

Critical Illness Cover is usually purchased together with life insurance, however:

  • Life insurance will pay out on the policyholder’s death.
  • Critical Illness cover pays out on diagnosis of a serious health condition

Can I add Critical Illness Cover to my Life Insurance Policy?

Most insurance companies sell Critical Illness Cover as an add-on to their Life Insurance policies. If you have already purchased a life insurance policy without this cover, it might be worth talking to your provider about the possibility of adding it on.

Can I get cover If I already have a medical condition?

If you have a pre-existing medical condition, whether you are covered or not will be determined by the condition itself, and the insurer’s view of the consequential risk-factors. It is possible to get cover, but not necessarily assured. With an existing, or even previous medical condition, this will be met with either an increased premium or policy exclusion.

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