A cancer diagnosis, heart attack or other unforeseen health crisis could leave you unable to earn an income, adding financial stress to an already emotionally stressful situation. Unfortunately, your mortgage or rent payment and other monthly expenses will still need to be paid. On top of those obligations, medical bills can quickly pile up. If you aren't able to work, you may not have the means to pay those bills.
Critical illness insurance is a policy that will pay out a benefit as a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a critical illness or condition specified in the policy. This can relieve or lessen the financial strain that can come with critical illnesses, so you can focus on getting better.
None of us knows if or when we will contract cancer, have a heart attack or stroke, or be diagnosed with another critical illness. These diseases and conditions can have devastating effects on our health, requiring dedicated treatment and recovery periods. When a critical illness strikes, the financial consequences can be just as catastrophic as the health ramifications in their own way. Consider this: an estimated 56 million Americans under age 65 have trouble paying medical bills, and medical bills are the number one reason for bankruptcies.
Even with a good health insurance policy, you may still be required to pay a sizable deductible before your health insurance kicks in, and then you may need to continue paying co-insurance to cover a portion of your own health care costs.
Critical illness insurance is designed to help alleviate the financial strain that comes with critical illnesses. The lump sum benefit paid out under a critical illness insurance policy can be used to pay your medical bills, mortgage and other expenses. Policy benefits can also be used to pay for experimental treatments not covered by your health insurance policy, or for travel to obtain treatments somewhere other than your current location.
Critical illness insurance requires you to make periodic premium payments to keep the policy in force. Every policy is a little different, but critical illness policies may offer payouts ranging from $10,000 all the way to $1 million. The policy itself specifies what conditions are covered. Typically, these include cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Some policies may also cover heart disease, kidney failure, organ transplant, paralysis and other conditions.
If you contract a covered condition while the policy is in force, the insurance company will pay you the face amount of the policy, typically in one lump sum payment which is generally tax-free (talk to your tax professional to confirm tax treatment for your specific situation).
The main advantage of a critical illness insurance policy is the peace of mind that comes with knowing you and your family will have cash available to cover your expenses in the event you become seriously ill. You get to choose how the money is spent: use it to pay for treatment costs that aren't covered under your health insurance policy, to cover your monthly obligations, to replace your spouse's income so he/she can care for you, etc. The choice is yours.
Other advantages of term life insurance:
Critical illness insurance can be surprisingly affordable, especially if you are young and relatively healthy when you purchase the policy.
When you weigh the policy premiums against the potential impact to your finances from not having coverage when you need it, buying a critical illness insurance policy just makes sense.
Some policies offer simplified underwriting, meaning you may be asked a series of health-related questions and may not need a medical exam. For higher value policies offering larger lump sum benefits, you will need to qualify for coverage based on medical exams and tests. In general, most healthy individuals qualify for critical illness coverage.
Because this type of policy is designed to pay out benefits in the event you are diagnosed with a critical illness, you cannot purchase the policy if you already have a critical illness.
Of course, none of us ever want to be diagnosed with any type of critical health condition, but there's no way to guarantee that won't happen. For a critical illness policy, your premiums will be based on your age, so purchasing a policy at a younger age can make the policy even more affordable.
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