Should you get critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover can offer financial protection against life threatening conditions. Here’s how it works, what the benefits are, and how to find the best cover for your needs.

Compare serious illness quotes

You could save on your critical illness cover when we refer you to our partner

They compare quotes from insurers to help you get the best deal.

Get a quote now

What is critical illness cover?

It’s a type of insurance that pays out a tax free lump sum if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition that’s covered by the policy.

You can use the money as you wish, but it may help to pay for your mortgage and bills, a treatment plan or to adapt your home or car.

Critical illness cover is also known as serious or specified illness cover.

How does it work?

You choose the amount of cover you need, who it’s for, and how long you want your policy to last. You must then pay guaranteed premiums for that term:

To make a claim, you need a medical diagnosis for your condition, and evidence it meets the specified illness definition shown in your policy.

What conditions are covered?

Only conditions specifically listed by the insurer on their critical illness policy are covered and each insurer has two lists of illnesses:

  1. A list that entitles you to the full payment
  2. A list that entitles you to partial payment

Most providers offer full payment cover for conditions such as:

Some providers cover over 50 full payment illnesses and over 40 partial payment conditions, but the numbers are less important than the detail.

It’s more important to check the definitions of each condition as this will give you a better idea of the severity needed for a payout to be made.

Comparing how each provider defines the most common conditions resulting in claims e.g. cancer, strokes and heart attacks is a good place to start.

Not all types of cancer or strokes are covered, so check that the main ones are included in your policy.

What about your children?

Your children are usually automatically covered on your serious illness policy for the same specified conditions.

The cover start and end points can vary depending on the provider, ranging from birth to age 25 if still in education.

However, the benefit is usually half the amount of the full specified illness cover or capped at around €25,000, whichever is lower. Partial specified illness payments are also halved or capped at around €7,500.

For any claim to be successful, you or your child must survive for a specific period from the date of diagnosis, usually 14 days.

Types of serious illness cover

There are three main types of critical illness cover:

  1. Stand alone serious illness cover
  2. Accelerated serious illness cover which includes life insurance
  3. Additional serious illness cover which includes life insurance

1. Stand alone serious illness cover

This is just serious illness cover and separate from any other life policy you may have.

The amount of cover you choose is the amount you will be paid in a successful full payment claim.

2. Accelerated serious illness cover

This is a combined life insurance and serious illness policy which works by you choosing a life cover amount e.g. €150,000 and a serious illness cover e.g. €50,000.

If you’re diagnosed with a full payment specified illness during the term, the €50,000 benefit is paid as a lump sum and your life cover is reduced by €50,000 to €100,000.

You then continue to have €100,000 life cover benefit either until the term ends or you die. Your premiums will reduce to reflect the reduced cover.

3. Additional serious illness cover

This works by you choosing an amount of life cover e.g. €150,000 and an additional serious illness cover amount e.g. €50,000.

This time, if you’re diagnosed with a full payment specified illness the €50,000 is paid out and the life cover benefit remains at €150,000 for the rest of the term.

If you opt for an accelerated or additional policy, the serious illness benefit may be capped at 100% of the life sum insured.

What extra benefits can you get?

As well as getting a full or partial payout for a specified illness, you can also customise your policy by picking additional benefits that may suit your needs.

Here are some of the benefits you’ll pay extra for:

How much does critical illness cover cost?

The cost of a policy can be vastly different depending on a number of factors such as:

Cover may start from as little as €15 a month but can cost considerably more depending on your circumstances. Always answer all the questions correctly to get an accurate quote.

Who offers serious illness cover in Ireland?

These are the main insurance providers who offer critical illness cover:

You could also get cover through a financial broker who specialises in this type of cover.

Is critical illness cover worth it?

Critical illness cover could help cover costs while you recover from a serious illness.

Whether it’s right for you will depend on your personal circumstances and what other financial protection you have in place.

For example, if you have income protection you may not need as much cover.

Pros and cons:

  • Your children are automatically covered
  • You can combine with life cover
  • Cover for two lists of illnesses
  • You don’t have to be working
  • No cover for pre-existing conditions
  • Definitions make claiming difficult
  • Not all cancers or strokes are covered

Speak to a financial adviser if you’re unsure if it’s the best option for you.

How to get the best specified serious illness cover

The best cover is what works for your individual circumstances. Here are a few things to help narrow your search down and find the right policy:

Once you’ve worked out exactly what cover you need, you can start comparing quotes.

You may choose to use a broker who could save you time by searching the market for you, to find a policy that meets your needs.

Critical illness FAQs

Can I add serious illness cover to my mortgage protection policy?

Yes, you can have accelerated serious illness cover added to your mortgage protection insurance.

If you made a claim, the lump sum amount would depend on the value of your mortgage protection at that time, which decreases with the term of your policy.

In addition, the money would go straight to the bank to pay part of your mortgage off, rather than to you.

Can I get cover for a pre-existing condition?

Not usually, but it’s worth contacting the insurance providers or financial brokers and advising them of your specific circumstances.

If you are able to find cover, it’s likely to be very expensive.

Can I get cover for cancers only?

Yes, and it should also work out cheaper.

This could be a good option if you have a pre-existing medical condition that prevents you from having a standard serious illness policy.

Can I get serious illness cover if I have a pre-existing condition?

In most cases, pre-existing conditions are excluded and will usually prevent you from getting cover.

However, you could check by discussing your circumstances directly with the provider or broker, or including full details of your pre-existing condition in their quote form.

How many times can a serious illness policy pay out?

It depends on the value of your benefit and what you claim for first.

You can claim for partial payment illnesses or claim for your child’s specified illnesses, up to the benefit amount available.

However, you can only claim once per illness, and some policies may restrict you to one partial claim per person.

Partial illness payouts are separate from your full payment illness benefit. So, if you have only claimed for partial payments, you’re still eligible to claim for a full payment illness.

If you make a full payment illness claim that’s successful, your policy will then cease and no further claims can be made.

How much critical illness cover do I need?

If you found yourself with a life threatening condition such as cancer, the treatment plan and recovery period could take several months or more.

Ideally, your benefit amount would be enough to ease your financial worries for a significant period of time, while you’re unable to work.

This may mean choosing a sum of between one and five times your salary, depending on things like:

  • What other financial protection you have
  • What your outstanding mortgage balance is
  • What your monthly outgoings total
  • Whether you have dependants to support
  • What other funds are available to cover bills
  • What you can afford to pay per month

If you already have income protection insurance this may reduce the amount of cover you need.

What do guaranteed premiums mean?

This means that the amount you pay each month or annually won’t change for the whole of the term, unless you choose to keep up with inflation (indexation option).

What is the difference between a joint and dual policy?

Both these policies are for two people e.g. yourself and your partner.

With a joint policy, there is usually only one payout made e.g. serious illness cover or life benefit, and then the policy ends.

With a dual policy, each person on the policy can claim. For example, if the first person dies during the term and a lump sum is paid out, the benefits will continue for the other person until the term ends.

You may pay more for a dual life policy because it offers more protection, but this isn’t always the case so it’s worth shopping around for quotes.

Get super fast broadband from just €24 a month

It only takes a few minutes to find a cheaper deal and start saving