Critical Illness Cover provides a tax-free lump-sum payment should the policyholder be diagnosed with having one of the insurer's specified Critical Illnesses during the term of the policy.
It can be used to provide protection in a number of ways. Like Life Insurance, it was primarily designed to help protect immediate family members and possibly other dependents from financial hardship by providing the means to pay off the mortgage on the family home and/or by providing income for the family to maintain their standard of living.
With the improvements in modern medicine leading to higher recovery rates, particularly for cancer which will affect 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women by retirement age, Critical Illness Cover can also be used simply as funding to cover expensive treatments or an extended period of convalescence before the policyholder returns to work.
As the chances of developing a critical illness are far greater than the chance of dying, Critical Illness Cover tends to be 3-4 times more expensive than Life Insurance. Typically, however, a combined policy will work out much cheaper than separate Life Insurance and Critical Illness Policies, so much so that often adding a Life Insurance element to a Critical Illness policy may add no more than a small increase in the monthly premiums, if any.
Whilst most common major illnesses are covered by insurers, not all companies cover the same illnesses, so it is important that the policyholder is familiar with the inclusions and exclusions before any documentation is signed. The illnesses typically covered are:
If the policy is to be used solely to cover a repayment mortgage, then a decreasing term critical illness product is usually the best choice, as the amount of money the policyholder has been insured for decreases in line with the value of the outstanding mortgage balance.
Conversely, a level term critical illness product is usually the best choice for an interest-only mortgage, where the value of the outstanding mortgage balance remains constant during the term of the policy.
The amount of cover required is always going to depend on an individual's circumstances. Essentially, you need to work out the financial impact to your family in the event of you becoming critically ill, and how much money they would need to survive until you recover.