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What to consider when choosing Critical Illness cover

What to consider when choosing Critical Illness cover

Feb 17, 2021

The diagnosis of a serious illness is a life-changing event. It can take an emotional toll as you face weeks and months of treatment, surgery, and recuperation. It also takes a financial toll, as you might have to take an extended period off work while still having to pay your mortgage, rent, or other monthly bills.

If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, or you’ve had to go into hospital because of another serious illness, the last thing you want to be doing is worrying about money.

That’s where Critical Illness cover comes in. This valuable insurance is designed to pay a lump sum when you’re diagnosed with a serious condition covered under the policy. But how do you choose the right Critical Illness cover for you?

Critical illness cover can provide valuable protection

Critical Illness policies cover a specified list of serious illnesses and conditions. When you’re diagnosed with an illness covered under your policy, it will pay out a lump sum.

You can use this lump sum to:

  • Repay your mortgage
  • Pay monthly bills and commitments
  • Replace income if you decide to take time off work
  • Pay for any care you need
  • Adapt your home if required.

Critical Illness cover gives you the peace of mind that financial support will be available if you’re seriously ill. It’s one less thing to worry about, allowing you to focus on your recovery.

In 2019, insurer Royal London reported that the most common reasons for a Critical Illness claim were cancer (65%), heart attack (10%), stroke (6%), children’s Critical Illness (5%) and multiple sclerosis (3%).

The average age of a claimant (excluding children) was 50 years old.


How to choose the right Critical Illness cover for you

There are dozens of insurers who offer Critical Illness cover in the UK. And, as with other types of insurance, these range from simple, basic policies to more comprehensive cover.

Here are three things you should consider when you’re choosing Critical Illness protection.


1.How comprehensive the policy is


Not all Critical Illness policies are the same. They vary from insurer to insurer, both in terms of the illnesses they cover and what are called ‘definitions’ – essentially, how ill you have to be before a claim will be paid.

So, it’s important to check what each Critical Illness policy will cover you for.

The rules state that Critical Illness policy documents must be written in easy-to-read plain English, so this should help you to understand the cover that each policy provides.

This is not an exhaustive list, and the specific definitions will vary from insurer to insurer, but you can typically expect a policy to cover:

  • Cancer, excluding some types and some less advanced cases
  • Heart attack – although this normally has to be of a certain specified severity
  • Stroke that results in lasting symptoms
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Cardiac arrest with insertion of a defibrillator
  • Permanent blindness, deafness, or loss of speech
  • Serious kidney or liver failure
  • Dementia including Alzheimer’s diseasethat results in permanent symptoms
  • A major organ transplant
  • Motor neurone disease that results in permanent symptoms
  • Parkinson’s disease that results in permanent symptoms
  • Advanced respiratory failure.

It’s important to remember that a successful Critical Illness cover claim will often depend on the severity of your illness or condition.

For example, an insurer may not pay out for a very mild heart attack, some types of cancer, and some illnesses that don’t result in permanent symptoms.

So, when you’re choosing Critical Illness cover, make sure you understand what each policy covers you for.


2.The claims record of the provider

When you take out insurance you want to know that the insurer will pay out if you make a valid claim.

In the UK, more than 91% of Critical Illness claims were paid in 2019. Despite the common misconception that insurers do everything they can to get out of paying a claim, the vast majority of claims are successful.

When comparing Critical Illness policies, you might want to ensure your chosen provider has a good claims payment record. Here are some specific figures from the UK’s leading insurers:

  • Over the three years to 2019, Aegon paid 94% of Critical Illness claims
  • In 2019, Aviva paid almost 5,000 Critical Illness and children’s Critical Illness claims, totalling £353 million. This represented 93.1% of all claims
  • Data published by AIG Life shows it paid 94% of Critical Illness claims in 2018, up from 93% the year before
  • In 2019, Royal London paid out more than 2,000 Critical Illness claims. The average claim was £73,882 and then paid more than £150 million in total, equivalent to 92.6% of all claims
  • In 2019, Legal & General paid 3,351 claims with a total value of £224 million. 92% of Critical Illness claims were paid, with an average claim of £66,857.
  • Where an insurer hasn’t paid a claim, this is normally for one of two reasons:
  • A policyholder had not provided accurate information on their proposal form when they took out the cover. For example, they may have said they were a ‘non-smoker’ when this was not the case, or had not disclosed a previous medical condition
  • The illness or condition did not meet the specific definition in the policy. This might be where a medical diagnosis does not meet a policy definition – for example, a condition may not be severe enough under the term of the policy to warrant a claim.

While the claims payment records of the major insurers are excellent, you may want to research these before you take out cover.



As we have seen, it’s important that you find the right Critical Illness protection for you. This might mean finding a comprehensive policy, with an insurer that has an excellent payment record.

If there are several providers that offer good quality cover, then it’s time to consider the relative cost of each.

A good place to start is to get a Critical Illness cover quote online. We work with dozens of UK insurers to compare the cost of cover, so we can help you to get the best price for the quality protection you want.

Indeed, we deliberately take less than the standard level of commission from insurers so we can pass these savings onto you.

The cost of cover can vary significantly from provider to provider. So, it can pay to do some research and compare the cost of Critical Illness cover so you don’t end up paying more than you need to for peace of mind.

Get in touch

If you’re looking for the right Critical Illness cover for you, but you don’t know where to start, we can help.

  • Head to our website
  • Complete one simple form and compare Critical Illness quotes from some of the UK’s leading providers
  • Speak to an independent specialist who can help you to get the cover you need.

Our dedicated Critical Illness cover page has lots of useful information, and answers to frequently-asked questions. Or, if you’d like to speak to an expert, please get in touch to find out how we can help you.

We can also help you if you have a pre-existing medical condition, or your circumstances are unusual and you think you might not be able to get the cover you need.



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