Critical illness cover: the facts

There are many different types of insurance, and whichever you choose to opt for, it is important that you understand exactly what you'll be covered for. One of the most common types of insurance is critical illness cover, and here you'll find a quick, easy-to-read guide on the facts about this type of insurance. As always, what is covered by any insurance policy is dictated by the individual insurer, so be sure that you know what you're getting before you take out insurance.

What is critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover or critical illness insurance is a plan that pays out a tax-free lump sum if you are diagnosed with one of the life-threatening conditions outlined in your policy. Critical illness policies are often combined with life insurance, meaning that they pay out if you are diagnosed with a critical illness or if you pass away.

What is usually included in critical illness cover?

Not all policies cover the same critical conditions but according to industry guidelines a policy called 'critical illness cover' must include advanced cases of cancer, severe heart attacks and stroke. Of course, most policies cover other conditions too, such as coronary bypass surgery, kidney failure, organ transplants and multiple sclerosis.

What is covered in your policy depends entirely on the plan you have agreed upon with your insurer. Generally, the more comprehensive and costly the policy, the more conditions covered by it.

What is usually excluded?

For an illness to be covered by your insurance it must meet the policy definition exactly. Furthermore, some conditions won't be covered if you contract them after a certain age - for example, many insurers do not cover Alzheimer's if it develops after the age of 60.

The majority of critical illness policies do not cover self-inflicted injury, illness as a result of alcohol or drug abuse, illness as a result of engaging in hazardous leisure activities or illness as a result of failing to follow medical advice. HIV-related illnesses (unless caught from a blood transfusion or through physical assault at work in the medical profession) and critical illness as a result of war, rioting or civil commotion are also not typically covered.

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