Critical illness cover is an insurance policy designed to protect you financially in case you're diagnosed with a serious illness. When you take out a policy, the insurer is taking on the risk of you becoming critically ill at some during your policy term – so naturally your health history will be factored in to any decisions the insurer makes.

Your health will affect the price of cover (and maybe even your eligibility with some insurers). So will your age, lifestyle, job, and what kind of cover you’re looking to buy. In this guide we'll explore exactly how a previous diagnosis or an existing medical condition might affect you when buying and claiming on a critical illness policy.

Can I take out critical illness cover if I have an existing health condition?

You might be able to, but it depends what your existing condition is or what your previous diagnosis was, and the level of severity. Everyone has to provide information about their health when they apply for critical illness insurance.

If you disclose an existing condition or a previous diagnosis during your application, it’s likely that insurers will deem you higher risk to insure – so they might make the premiums more expensive for you, or exclude the illness you had from the cover. If your previous diagnosis was particularly recent or severe, they might postpone their decision or decline your application altogether.

Do I have to disclose existing conditions or previous diagnoses?

It’s very important to be completely honest about your health history when applying for critical illness insurance. If not, you could run into problems when trying to make a claim, or even invalidate your policy altogether.

It’s only worth paying for cover that’s genuinely right for you, and will pay out when you need it to. No-one wants to pay for insurance only to find it won’t pay out when they need to claim because they didn’t declare an existing or previous condition. This is why honesty is always the best policy when it comes to your critical illness cover application.

Anorak tip: Speaking to one of our advisers is best if you want to buy critical illness cover – but you've got an existing health condition or you've been diagnosed with something serious in the past. They have access to the whole market of insurers and will be able to filter out the ones who’ll cover you and offer the best terms for your unique situation.

How your health could affect your application

Depending on health condition you disclose during the underwriting process – including when it was and how severe it was – there are four typical outcomes when trying to buy critical illness with an existing illness in your health history:

  1. The illness you had will be covered by the policy at no extra cost (this usually only happens if it was very mild and/or a long time ago)
  2. The illness will be covered by the policy but a ‘loading’ will be added onto your monthly premiums (i.e. the cost will be higher than it would be for someone without your condition)
  3. The illness you had will be excluded from your policy (so you wouldn’t be able to make a claim if you were diagnosed again)
  4. The insurer will postpone their decision to insure you (this happens if they think you pose too much of a risk now, but might be less of a risk once more time has passed)
  5. The insurer will decline your application (this happens if the insurer thinks your previous diagnosis means you'll always be too high risk to insure)
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  • You should be able to buy critical illness cover even if you've had a serious diagnosis before, but it depends how recent and how severe it was
  • A previous diagnosis could make it more expensive to get covered with critical illness insurance
  • The insurer might exclude the illness you had from your critical illness policy, so you wouldn’t be able to claim for it if you were diagnosed again
  • If you previous diagnosis was very recent or very severe, some insurers might decline your critical illness cover application