A critical illness policy only pays out if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses or conditions listed in it. This is important to know, because the illnesses and conditions covered in each policy will be different. Insurers cover different illnesses to varying degrees of severity.

The only way to be sure about what’s covered in your own policy is to read the policy documents. It’s a good idea to do this before you buy the policy, so you can be satisfied it covers a sufficient number of illnesses that are relevant to you and your circumstances.


What illnesses are covered?

The illnesses and conditions covered by critical illness insurance is different per policy and per insurer. The safest way to know what’s covered is to read the policy documents. Most critical illness policies will cover:

  • Cancers
  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Organ failures
  • Loss of limbs
  • Loss of hearing or sight
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

Each policy will have a list of core illnesses covered, and a list of additional illnesses. The core illnesses are usually the most severe or advanced, while the additional are less severe or advanced. You might see the same illness in both lists, but with different degrees of severity. You get the full lump sum payout if you’re diagnosed with a core illness, but only a proportionate payout if you’re diagnosed with an additional illness.

Most insurers allow you to add children’s cover to your policy too. If you do this, your children will usually be covered for the same set of illnesses as you, and perhaps some child-specific illnesses like:

  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Down’s syndrome

To make a successful claim on your critical illness policy, you’ll need to meet your insurer’s definition of the illness or condition as stated in your policy.


How many illnesses are covered?

The number of illnesses and conditions covered in a critical illness policy will be different per insurer. Some insurers offer standard and upgraded products; in which case the upgraded policy will cover more illnesses than the standard policy. As a ballpark, though, critical illness policies tend to cover:

  • Around 40-60 severe illnesses
  • Around 30-50 less severe illnesses
  • The same illnesses for children and, in some cases, up to around 10 child-specific illnesses

Is critical illness cover right for me?

Critical illness cover can provide a financial lifeline at a difficult time. If you or the people you love would be financially affected by a serious diagnosis in your household, having cover in place gives you peace of mind that you’ve got a safety net if it happens to you. This means you could have time off work to recover or adjust without having to worry about money.

Critical illness insurance isn’t the only way to protect yourself against ill health. Income protection insurance is another way to give yourself peace of mind in case you lose your income for health reasons. The difference with income protection is that covers you for any medical reason, not just a specified list of illnesses or conditions. It also pays out monthly if you make a valid claim, as opposed to critical illness cover’s lump sum payout.

If you can afford it, these are both valuable kinds of cover to have in place. But if you’re choosing between the two, it depends on what kind of risk you’re happy to live with, and which would give you the most peace of mind.


  • Critical illness insurance only covers the list of illnesses and conditions specified in your policy
  • The list of covered illnesses and conditions varies from policy to policy and insurer to insurer
  • Policies cover core illnesses, which are usually the most severe, and additional illnesses, which are usually less severe
  • Policies can usually cover your children too, and sometimes cover child-specific illnesses
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.