What is critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover is a type of insurance policy that pays out if you’re diagnosed with one of the serious illnesses or conditions covered by your particular policy. A typical policy covers 40-60 critical illnesses or conditions – often including things like cancer, heart attack and stroke, though different insurers and policies each cover a different list of illnesses.

If you need to claim on your critical illness insurance, it pays out as a lump sum. You can use the money however you choose, but essentially the payout is designed to help you (and your partner or family) cope financially in the wake of a diagnosis. It can help you cover the essentials while you adjust or recover.

What’s the best critical illness policy 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 in place to give you and your family peace of mind that you could cope financially if you were diagnosed with a critical illness
  • Enough cover to meet the financial needs you think you’d have if you were diagnosed with a critical illness (if you couldn't work, for example)
  • Monthly insurance premiums you can afford

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

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 scan all the major insurers to match you to your best-suited policies.

Find the best critical illness 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. Whether or not you have a partner and children who rely on you financially, for example, is a big factor. What you’d need the payout 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 cover you might need in place to help pay for your household expenses for a year (and multiply it, depending how much protection you want to have in place). Knowing this will help you decide on the best amount of cover to buy when you decide to get critical illness cover.

Should I buy critical illness cover with life insurance cover?

Many insurers offer combined critical illness and life insurance cover – which is why it’s common to get both critical illness cover and life cover at the same time. This means you’d be covered by the same policy if you died or if you were diagnosed with a critical illness – but you’d only be able to claim the payout money once, for whichever scenario happens first. For this reason, some people also choose to take out an additional, separate life insurance policy too, so you’re always covered for both death and illness (so long as you hold both policies).

Best critical illness cover insurance companies

The ‘best’ critical illness insurance company is the one that has the right policy for you and your unique needs. 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 mean this isn’t always the case – including whether or not to buy a combined or standalone critical illness product.

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 cover 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 and conditions 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 smoker status

The following cover 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 premiums Smoker premiums Review
Aviva
Standard adult and standard child cover
£13.47 £17.39 Read our Aviva critical illness cover review
Legal and General
Standard adult and standard child cover
£13.14 £17.12 Read our Legal & General critical illness cover review
LV=
Combined life and critical illness cover (includes child)
£16.55 £21.27 Read our LV= critical illness cover review
Scottish Widows
Protect (includes child)
£14.26 £17.49 Read our Scottish Widows critical illness cover review
Zurich
Personal Protection: Standard adult and standard child cover
£13.29 £18.77 Read our Zurich critical illness cover review

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's premiums 35 year old's premiums 45 year old's premiums Review
Aviva
Standard adult and standard child
£10.43 £18.42 £36.78 Read our Aviva critical illness cover review
L&G
Standard adult and standard child
£10.25 £17.99 £35.18 Read our Legal & General critical illness cover review
LV=
Combined life and critical illness cover (includes child)
£12.66 £22.39 £46.28 Read our LV= critical illness cover review
Scottish Widows
Protect (includes child)
£11.11 £18.93 £37.37 Read our Scottish Widows critical illness cover review
Zurich
Personal Protection: Standard adult and standard child cover
£10.78 £18.52 £38.63 Read our Zurich critical illness cover review

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.

We make 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.
What is critical illness cover?
Critical illness cover is an insurance policy that pays out a tax-free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses or conditions listed in it. It’s designed to protect you against the financial consequences of becoming seriously ill.
Who needs critical illness cover?
Anyone who’d be financially affected by becoming critically ill, especially if it left you unable to work. In particular, those with financial commitments or dependents. Having this kind of protection in place provides a financial safety net.
What illnesses are covered by critical illness policies?
Each critical illness insurer covers a unique list of illnesses and conditions. This usually includes cancers, heart attacks, strokes, and more. Your policy will only pay out if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses listed in it.
Are my children covered by my critical illness insurance?
Most insurers will allow you to include children’s cover in your policy at no extra cost. They’re usually covered for the same illnesses as you, and sometimes some additional child-specific illnesses too.
Will my critical illness cover pay out?
Your critical illness insurance will pay out straight away if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses or conditions it covers. It’ll pay out the full lump sum for the core illnesses covered and a proportion of the lump sum for the additional illnesses.

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