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What illnesses does critical illness insurance cover?

LifeSearch author Katie Crook-Davies
4 min read

by Katie Crook-Davies, Protection Writer

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Katie works with insurers and distributors to make protection propositions more accessible, pricing more transparent and marketing messages more simple.See author bio

Guide last reviewed 10 Oct 2023

Do you have critical illness insurance? It’s a product that pays out a lump sum amount of money if ever you develop one of the conditions covered by the policy. It works like life insurance, but it pays out for illnesses rather than death. 

It can sound a little morbid, we understand that, but a product like critical illness cover really can provide a helping hand during a challenging time. Think about cancer, just for a minute - if ever you developed cancer, and sadly, half of us will [1], you may need to stop work to go through treatment. And this means that sadly four out of five people are on average £891 a month worse off because of their diagnosis [2].

So, you’ll probably be pleased to hear that critical illness insurance plans cover cancer, but what other conditions do they cover? And does the number of conditions covered make a policy better or worse? We explain all in this guide, so read on! 

What is critical illness cover?

It’s a type of protection insurance product that pays out a tax-free lump sum of money if you ever develop one of the illnesses covered.

The idea is that this money can help to remove financial stress from an already stressful situation, allowing you to live life on your terms - perhaps you decide to give up work to spend more time with the family, you might choose to fully pay off your mortgage to reduce your monthly bills and make life that little bit more manageable, or you might even decide to treat the family to a fancy holiday. However you decide to use the money, it’s clear to see how helpful a payout like this could be if ever a horrible illness were to affect you and your loved ones. 

We’ve created a handy guide explaining all things critical illness illness insurance, so give it a read if you’d like more information on this product, or contact our critical illness experts on 0800 316 7253

What does critical illness insurance cover?

There are lots of different critical illness plans out there, covering different things, but they have one thing in common, and that’s that they all cover cancer, heart attack and stroke. And you could say that these are the most important conditions to cover, because together they account for 80% of claims - in fact, according to one insurer, cancer alone made up 65% of claims [3]! 

But often, plans cover far more than these three conditions, including things like blindness, deafness, brain tumour, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and kidney failure. Most critical illness plans cover at least 40 different illnesses, for which they would pay out the full amount of insurance cover. And it’s clear to see where this money could come in handy, because a number of these conditions are life-long. Having that extra cash can help to pay for things like home adaptations and private treatment, as well as helping to cover ongoing family bills if you’re unable to work.

And despite the name, not all conditions covered would be considered ‘critical’. Critical illness insurance plans today cover a range of less severe, and earlier stage, illnesses too! Things like very early stage cancer - carcinoma in situ, or perhaps partial loss of sight. Policies tend to cover around 20 of these lower-severity conditions and would usually pay out around 25% of the cover amount, to reflect the lower impact that a condition like this would likely have on you financially.

Is it better to have a critical illness plan that covers more conditions?

You may be thinking that the more conditions covered, the better, because you’ll be more likely to receive a claim payout if you fall ill. This is true, but it’s key to remember that the vast majority of claims, 80% in fact, are for cancer, heart attack and stroke. On the other hand, conditions which fortunately, are less likely to happen account for a much smaller amount of all claims. Of course, numbers aren’t everything. You may have a close family friend who has been affected by a certain condition, and so you might decide that it’s important for your policy to cover that particular illness, even if it isn’t very common.

The number of conditions covered is one thing, but it’s also important to understand how you qualify for a claim payout with a policy. All critical illness insurance plans list out the conditions they cover (you can check your policy documents if you have a policy already) along with a medical definition which must be met for a payout to be made. Take heart attack for example - some critical illness insurance policies will pay out if you’re diagnosed as having a heart attack, while others will only pay out if the heart attack reaches a certain level of severity. We understand that this is all a bit technical, especially if you’re not a medical professional, but we’re basically just saying that even if the conditions covered are the same between policies, the actual claim definitions may be different.

With all the different insurers out there, offering different critical illness insurance policies, finding and choosing the right protection for you and your family can be a bit of a challenge (that’s probably an understatement). But don’t panic, we’re here to help!



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LifeSearch author Katie Crook-Davies
Katie Crook-Davies Protection Writer
Katie is an independent insurance consultant who is passionate about protection and wants to share that passion with others through engaging marketing content. She hopes that one day people will get as excited about protecting themselves and their loved ones, as she does!
See all articles by Katie Crook-Davies
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