What is critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover is an insurance policy that pays out if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses or conditions covered by your policy. Typical policies cover 40-60 critical illnesses or conditions – including things like cancer, heart attack and stroke. Critical illness insurance pays out as a lump sum which you can use however you choose, but essentially it’s there to help you cope financially in the wake of a diagnosis.

What’s the best critical illness cover for me?

Lots of factors determine what’s the ‘best’ critical illness policy for you, but the main things to think about are having:

  • Enough cover to give you peace of mind in case of a diagnosis
  • Enough cover to meet the needs you think you’d have in case of a diagnosis
  • Monthly insurance premiums you can afford

Beyond that, different critical illness policies cover different lists of illnesses and come with different features and benefits. Depending on your life, circumstances and health history, some policies may be more suited to you than others.

Anorak takeaway

These things can be tricky to measure – but Anorak can help. Tell us about you and your life and we’ll work out how much critical illness cover you might need and match you to your best-suited policies.

Find the best cover for you

How much critical illness cover do I need?

The amount of critical illness cover you need very much depends on your personal circumstances and how much a diagnosis could affect you financially. What you’d need the money for could also vary depending on the type of diagnosis. It’s difficult to measure these things before they happen – so, as a general rule of thumb, it can help to consider how much you might need to help cover household expenses for a year (and multiply it, depending how much protection you want). Knowing this will help you decide on the best amount of cover for you.

Should I buy critical illness with life insurance?

Many insurers offer combined critical illness and life cover – which is why it’s common to take both out at the same time. This means you’d be covered for both death and critical illness – but you’d only be able to claim the lump sum once, for whichever scenario happened first. For this reason, some people choose to take out another separate life insurance policy too, so you’re always covered for both scenarios (so long as you hold both policies).

Best critical illness insurance companies

The ‘best’ critical illness insurance company is the one that has the right policy for you. This is likely to be different per person. Many people might think the ‘best’ company is the one that offers the most affordable policy, but there are many other factors to take into account when buying critical illness cover that this isn’t always the case – including whether or not to buy a combined or standalone product.

Comparing critical illness products and companies is often about finding the best value for money based on your unique circumstances. Since it’s lump sum cover, you can’t compare how much would be paid out (because that amount would be the same, depending how much you buy) – but you can compare the cost of insuring that amount over the same period of time; the number of illnesses covered; the additional features, benefits and degree of flexibility a policy has; and what % of claims providers pay out. And so on.

Critical illness cover price comparison based on smoking status

The following prices are based on:

  • 30-year-old, male or female office worker
  • £50,000 of level critical illness cover for 20 years
Insurer/product Non-smoker Smoker
Aviva

Standard adult and standard child cover
£13.47 £17.39
Legal and General

Standard adult and standard child cover
£13.14 £17.12
LV=

Combined life and critical illness cover (includes child)
£16.55 £21.27
Scottish Widows

Protect (includes child)
£14.26 £17.49
Zurich

Personal Protection: Standard adult and standard child cover
£13.29 £18.77

Quoted on 14/02/2020

Critical illness cover price comparison based on age

The following prices are based on:

  • Healthy, non-smoking, male or female office worker
  • £50,000 of level critical illness cover for 20 years
Insurer/product 25 year old 35 year old 45 year old
Aviva

Standard adult and standard child
£10.43 £18.42 £36.78
L&G

Standard adult and standard child
£10.25 £17.99 £35.18
LV=

Combined life and critical illness cover (includes child)
£12.66 £22.39 £46.28
Scottish Widows

Protect (includes child)
£11.11 £18.93 £37.37
Zurich

Personal Protection: Standard adult and standard child cover
£10.78 £18.52 £38.63

Quoted on 14/02/2020

Understanding critical illness policy features

The most common features you’ll come across in critical illness policies are: core benefit, additional benefit, and child benefit. Below is a quick summary of what each means:

Critical illness policy feature What it means for you
Core benefit This is the core benefit of your policy – which pays out the full lump sum amount if you get diagnosed with one of the serious illnesses or conditions listed in it. You can only claim this once, and when you do, the policy ends.
Additional benefit This is an additional benefit – which pays out part of the lump sum amount if you get diagnosed with one of the less serious illnesses listed in your policy. You can make multiple additional benefit claims (but not for the same condition), but only before you claim the core benefit – after which, the policy ends.
Child benefit This covers your children, paying out if they’re diagnosed with one of the children’s illnesses listed in your policy – which can be the same as the adult ones or sometimes child-specific. Again, child benefit pays out part of the lump sum amount, but can be claimed in addition to your core benefit (only if you haven’t claimed the core benefit yet).

Will your critical illness policy pay out?

Worrying about whether or not a critical illness insurance policy will pay out when you need it to is not uncommon – especially because there’s often a number of illnesses and conditions included, with varying severity stipulations. But if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses listed in your policy, and your diagnosis meets the severity threshold, your policy will pay out. Of course, it’s very important to be as honest and accurate as possible when applying for your policy – most rejected claims are due to people failing to do this (it's called 'misrepresentation').

It’s also worth bearing in mind that your policy will only pay out the core benefit once. And if you have a combined critical illness and life insurance policy, it’ll only pay out for whichever event happens first – critical diagnosis or death.

Finding the best critical illness cover for you


Anorak makes it easy not only to find the best critical illness cover – but to find the right critical illness cover for you. By analysing your profile, we can calculate your cover needs and quickly match you to products based on their suitability for you.

How? Well, we’ve delved into the policy details across all the major insurers’ products, unpacked it all and plugged it into our online service. In other words, we’ve done all the hard work – so you don’t have to. Giving you a quick and efficient way to buy the right cover.

Good to know: Our recommendations are regulated, completely impartial – and free. And we also have a team of human advisers who can help over the phone, if you prefer.

This guide is intended for informative purposes only and does not constitute advice.