Best Critical Illness Insurance

How to choose the right critical insurance for you

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

There’s no doubt about it: Healthcare is expensive and about 60% of bankruptcies are caused by medical debt. As a means to reduce the risks for financial hardship that can come with serious illness, some Americans turn to supplemental critical illness insurance policies. 

Critical illness insurance provides additional coverage, either as a lump sum awarded or by offering additional benefits, to help you pay for medical care should you experience a stroke, heart attack, cancer, or other severe illness. If you’re considering critical illness insurance either through your employer or as an individual policy, we’ve reviewed more than 20 companies based on factors including premiums and coverage to help you choose.

Best Critical Illness Insurance of 2021

Best Overall : Guardian Life

Guardian

 Guardian

Why We Chose It: Guardian Life offers a wide variety of policy options to individuals and employees, fast payout times, and a large number of critical illnesses covered with recurrence payments available.

What We Like
  • Offers policies to individuals and businesses

  • No waiting periods for benefits

  • Recurrence payments available

What We Don't Like
  • Must provide an email address to receive a quote

  • Individual critical illness policies not available in all areas, although they don’t specify

Guardian Life offers critical illness policies for individuals and employers and covers a variety of critical illnesses in four major categories: heart and vascular conditions, cancer, kidney failure, and other major organ failure. It is a lump-sum policy and does not have any waiting periods before benefits are paid. 

You can fill out information online to obtain a quote from Guardian; an email is necessary to receive quote information, so you can expect some follow-up from the process. Note that the availability of critical illness insurance products for individuals can vary by geographic location.

We like that Guardian offers different policy options, and unlike some other policies we reviewed, Guardian offers a first occurrence and recurrence payout. This means that if you experience a certain critical illness type, you can still receive future payouts at a later date with the policy. Once you submit a claim, Guardian Life promises to turn around the claim within seven days if you provide the correct documentation. 

AM Best rates Guardian Life an A++ (Superior) for its financial strength.

Best for Budget : Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual

 Liberty Mutual

Why We Chose It: Liberty Mutual offers quotes in less than a minute that were some of the lowest we reviewed.

What We Like
  • Low-price monthly premiums

  • Variety of monetary lump-sum coverages

What We Don't Like
  • Does not cover as many critical illnesses as some other policies

Liberty Mutual offers a lump-sum critical illness policy with several customizable aspects. You can choose to cover yourself or add additional dependents to your policy including a spouse, partner, or child. They also offer a variety of coverage options ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 in lump-sum payments. While most companies offer policies in $10,000 increments, Liberty Mutual offers $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, and $25,000 policies. 

Covered illnesses include specified cancer types, organ transplants, coronary artery bypass surgery, heart attack, and stroke. One of the drawbacks was that some policies will cover a wider illnesses range. Liberty Mutual will not cover pre-existing critical illnesses within six months of obtaining the policy and the benefit waiting period is 30 days from the policy’s issue. 

We were quoted a price of $33.10 a month for a 45-year-old non-smoking male for $40,000 in coverage. This was half the price of some other policies we reviewed, but note that your quote will vary based on factors including your age and where you live. You can quickly obtain a quote online as well as apply for the policy online after answering some brief health history questions. 

Liberty Mutual provides critical illness insurance in all states and has an AM Best rating of A or “Excellent” for financial strength.

Best for High-Dollar Coverage : AIG Direct

AIG Direct

AIG Direct

Why We Chose It: AIG offers lump-sum critical illness coverage up to $500,000.

What We Like
  • Individual coverage up to $500,000

  • No medical exam required up to $100,000 in coverage

  • Wide variety of critical illnesses covered

What We Don't Like
  • Quotes not available online

AIG Direct (AIG) offers Critical Illness Insurance for a lump sum value up to $500,000. This was one of the highest-value policies of all the companies reviewed. While the additional coverage likely comes with a higher premium price tag, the option could be a good idea if you wish to protect your wealth or loved ones in event of a critical illness.  

If you select a coverage amount less than $100,000, the company does not require a medical exam. For higher-coverage policies, you must submit to a medical exam that also includes a blood profile and urinalysis. If you select one of two special riders— the Benefits Extension Rider or the Accidental Death and Dismemberment Rider—AIG may limit coverage to no more than $150,000. The company also offers a Medical Personnel HIV Rider, which pays a benefit to a person in the medical field should they accidentally contract HIV as a result of their work duties. 

In addition to the higher-value policy option, we also liked that AIG covers a wide variety of medical conditions. Examples include coma, invasive cancer, stroke, heart attack, renal failure, severe burns, paralysis, vision loss, major organ transplant, or loss of independent living. 

AIG doesn’t offer policy premium quotes online. They have a section on their website where you fill out information about your desired coverage amount along with your height, weight, and contact information, and an AIG representative will call you regarding a quote. 

AM Best has rated AIG an A or “Excellent” financial strength rating.

Best for Customizable Coverage : Aflac

Aflac logo

Why We Chose It: Aflac offers additional riders you can choose to enhance your critical illness policy.

What We Like
  • Ability to add different condition-specific medical riders

  • Base policy includes a recurrence payment for other critical illnesses

What We Don't Like
  • Quotes not available online

  • Critical illness insurance not available in Idaho, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia

Aflac offers critical illness insurance that pays a lump-sum benefit with several different rider options. You can also choose to purchase a guaranteed-issue lump sum policy that does not require a medical questionnaire to complete. 

The policy covers critical illnesses that include coma, end-stage renal failure, heart attack, hemorrhagic stroke, ischemic stroke, and paralysis. Notably, cancer is not a part of this list. Aflac offers the option to add an optional benefit of a lump-sum cancer rider. Another customizable benefit rider is the return of premium benefit rider which allows you to recoup your premiums paid if you keep the policy for 20 years or more and do not make a claim. 

Aflac’s critical illness policy also includes a subsequent critical illness benefit. This pays you if you are diagnosed with another or the same critical illness more than 180 days after the first diagnosis. 

Policy coverages range from $10,000 to $100,000 in increments of $10,000. You’ll likely have to complete a medical questionnaire if you wish to obtain the higher-premium critical illness insurance policies. 

Unfortunately, quotes are not available online for Aflac’s critical illness policies. They also are not offered in some states, including Idaho, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia. However, there is a form on the Aflac website where you can request an agent to contact you to obtain a quote. 

AM Best has rated Aflac an A+ or “Superior” rating for its financial strength.

Best for Employees : MetLife

MetLife

 MetLife

Why We Chose It: MetLife has guaranteed-issue coverage for employees that’s portable should you leave your job.

What We Like
  • Employee coverage is guaranteed-issue

  • Portable coverage should a person leave their job

  • Does not require a waiting period for coverage to take effect

What We Don't Like
  • Monthly premium cost estimates depend on employer

MetLife offers its critical illness policies to employers only. However, we liked that once you purchase the policy, the coverage is portable if you did leave your current employer. MetLife offers a lump-sum plan that includes dependent coverage, such as your spouse or children. 

Another upside is that the policy is guaranteed acceptance. If you are actively employed, you can qualify for the coverage without taking a medical exam or answering health history questions. MetLife also doesn’t institute a waiting period. Your policy effective date and coverage date are the same. 

Examples of critical illnesses covered include heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s disease, major organ transplant, and certain cancer types. In total, their critical illness policy may cover 22 conditions. 

MetLife also advertises ease of payment. They will acknowledge your claim within three days of receipt, after which you can pay either via check or electronic funds transfer.

Because the plans are company-specific, MetLife doesn’t share monthly premium costs. Also, although MetLife operates in all states, they don’t disclose if they offer their critical illness policies in all states. AM Best rates MetLife an A+ (Superior) for financial strength. 

Best for Individuals : Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha

Mutual of Omaha

Why We Chose It: Mutual of Omaha’s critical illness policy benefits individuals who need a high-deductible insurance filler.

What We Like
  • Limited underwriting for individuals

  • Customizable policies that fill the gap for high-deductible health insurance

What We Don't Like
  • Quotes not available online

Mutual of Omaha offers its critical illness insurance policy to individuals, families, and employees. The individual benefits stand out as especially strong. The company advertises its policy as an excellent option for individuals with high-deductible insurance policies. The lump-sum payment received from Mutual of Omaha could help cover costs until a person meets their high deductible, which can sometimes number in the $10,000 range. 

Mutual of Omaha’s critical illness policy covers conditions such as internal cancer, heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, major organ transplant, blindness, paralysis, deafness, or kidney failure. They also pay 25% of the lump sum for coronary artery bypass surgery or coronary angioplasty surgery. Their policy coverage options range from $10,000 to $100,000.

The company advertises they use limited underwriting to accept individuals applying for the policy. You can also add additional riders to the policy, but these are largely dependent upon where you live. It’s also worth noting that Mutual of Omaha offers individual policies for cancer or heart attack or stroke. These individual policies tend to be slightly less expensive than a comprehensive critical illness policy. However, Mutual of Omaha does not allow you to obtain quotes on their website; you must contact a Mutual of Omaha agent. 

Mutual of Omaha has an A+ or “Superior” financial strength rating from AM Best.

Best for Lifetime Coverage : UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare

 UnitedHealthcare

Why We Chose It: UnitedHealthcare has one of the few policies we reviewed that offered lifetime coverage (the payout rate reduces after age 65).

What We Like
  • Lump-sum insurance offers lifetime benefit

  • Quotes available online 

    14 critical illness types covered

What We Don't Like
  • Critical illness policies not offered in all states

  • Policy is guaranteed renewable until age 70

Supplemental insurance policies are a risk to both the insurance company and the purchaser. You may purchase a policy that you never need, or your insurance company may have to pay you much more than you ever paid in premiums. Because your risk for experiencing a critical illness such as a heart attack or cancer increases as you age, many insurance companies will not offer policies that extend throughout your lifetime. UnitedHealthcare offers a policy that will extend over your lifetime, but there are some stipulations. 

For example, the company offers a maximum lifetime benefit in increments of $10,000, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000. The policy offers a full lump-sum payment for diagnoses made 90 days after the policy is effective. UnitedHealthcare covers 14 critical illness types, including heart attack, stroke, loss of hearing, major transplant, coma, or kidney failure. Once you turn 65, the maximum lifetime benefit automatically reduces by 50 percent. While this is a drawback, few policies are willing to extend lifetime coverage. 

Another consideration is the policy is guaranteed renewable until age 70. At that time, UnitedHealthcare may choose to continue your policy for the remainder of your life or terminate the policy. There are pre-existing condition limitations, which include no diagnosis or medications to treat a critical illness covered within the past 24 months. 

Using UnitedHealthcare’s online quote tool, we were quoted a price of $66.66 for a 45-year-old man for $40,000 worth of coverage. The monthly premium for $10,000 in coverage was $16.67 for the same age and gender. Note that your premium may change based on your age and where you live.

UnitedHealthcare stipulations may vary from state to state, and they do not offer critical illness insurance policies in California, Georgia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Virginia, or the District of Columbia. 

AM Best rates UnitedHealthcare’s underwriting company, Golden Rule Insurance Company, an A or “Excellent” for financial stability.

Best for Ease of Qualifications : Breeze

Breeze

 Breeze

Why We Chose It: Breeze’s online application takes minutes to complete, and you’ll receive an instant decision.

What We Like
  • Application process takes minutes to complete

  • Receive an instant decision

  • Sliding scale illustrates how much your monthly premium is relative to benefit

What We Don't Like
  • Not available in New York

  • Policies not available to those older than age 60

When it comes to ease of application, it’s hard to beat Breeze. The company offers an online critical illness insurance application that collects several data points, including gender, birthday, ZIP code, and smoking status. You’re then shown options for coverage amount, usually ranging anywhere from $5,000 to $75,000. Breeze’s website shows an estimated monthly premium along with this amount. Once you select your desired coverage amount, the online application typically takes five minutes or less before you receive a coverage decision. 

Breeze’s critical illness insurance can cover a variety of medical conditions including stroke, heart attack, organ transplant, and cancer. They only offer lump-sum policies, which pay a cash benefit should you meet their qualification criteria. (You’re usually asked to have a doctor confirm your diagnosis and may need to provide key test results.) You can make claims via their online portal to receive your benefit should a doctor diagnose you with a critical illness. 

Utilizing Breeze’s online quote tool, we received a cost estimate of $59.40 a month for a 45-year old non-smoking man to receive $40,000 in coverage. We were offered a maximum coverage of $75,000 with a maximum monthly price of $109.47. The price you pay may change based on your location.

Breeze does not extend its policies to those older than age 60. Their policies are guaranteed-renewable until either age 65 or 67, dependent upon the policy. 

Note that Breeze does not sell its critical illness insurance product in New York. Its underwriting company, Assurity Life, does sell critical illness insurance in this state. AM Best rates Assurity Life “Excellent” for financial strength.

Final Verdict 


Critical illness supplemental insurance can provide additional financial support should a doctor diagnose you with a critical illness. Because covered illnesses, duration of benefits, and waiting periods can vary, it’s important to read any policy very carefully before selecting it. While most critical illness policies we reviewed involved lump-sum payments, some will pay for a percentage of costs.

Compare Providers

Best Critical Illness Insurance
Site Why We Picked It Policy Type Costs
Guardian Best Overall  Lump-sum $44.46 per month for a 45-year-old non-smoking man for a $20,000 maximum benefit, but may vary by location
Liberty Mutual Best Budget Lump-sum $33.10 for a 45-year-old man for $40,000 in coverage, but may vary by location
AIG Best for High-Dollar Coverage  Lump-sum  Quotes not available online 
Aflac  Best for Customizable Coverage Lump-sum   Quotes not available online 
Mutual of Omaha Best for Individuals Lump-sum  Quotes not available online 
MetLife Best for Employees Lump-sum  Quotes not available online 
UnitedHealthcare Best for Lifetime Coverage Lump-sum $66.66 for a 45-year-old man for $40,000 in coverage, but may vary by location 
Breeze Best for Ease of Qualifications Lump-sum $59.40 for a 45-year-old man for $40,000 in coverage, but may vary by location

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Is Critical Illness Insurance?  

Critical illness insurance (sometimes called catastrophic illness insurance or specified disease insurance) is a supplemental insurance policy that covers a person should they experience an illness named on the policy. Examples of some of the potential illnesses covered include:

It’s important to note that some critical illness insurance policies do not cover all forms of cancer. They may also differentiate between invasive and non-invasive cancers (those that may not have spread, such as skin cancers).

These policies provide additional funds besides a person’s traditional health insurance policy. They may also pay for diagnostic and treatment aspects traditional insurance doesn’t cover. Examples may include transportation to treatments and co-payments. Some policies provide a lump sum that allows a person to spend the funds for their care as they see fit. 

Critical illness policies don’t take the place of traditional medical insurance. Instead, they are intended to keep a person and their family from suffering financially when facing a severe illness.  

What Are the Expected Costs of Critical Illness Insurance?

Companies that offer critical illness insurance may price their plan taking into account several factors. Examples include your:

  • Age
  • Family medical history of critical illness 
  • Gender 
  • Overall health

The policy’s value also affects how the company prices the plan. Understandably, a plan that offers a higher payout or more coverage will have a higher monthly premium. 

What Is Excluded From Coverage?

Each policy may outline different exclusions. Most will not cover a critical illness you’ve been diagnosed with in the past year or even lifetime. Others may not cover non-invasive cancers. 

Also, there are potentially some injury-related critical illnesses, such as amputation or loss of vision. Your insurance company will not typically pay out benefits if you were engaged in illegal activity at the time of the injury or if the injury was the result of self-harm. 

Each company will issue an explanation of benefits document that should include a description of exclusions and policy limitations. If you have additional exclusion-related questions, contact your potential critical illness insurance company. 

Should I Get Critical Illness Insurance?

The decision to purchase a critical illness insurance policy is an individual one. If you examine your current health insurance policy and overall health and determine that you may not be able to cover necessary expenses that come with a critical illness, purchasing critical illness insurance would be a good idea. 

If you choose not to purchase this insurance, having a savings account with a common lump sum amount a policy pays can help navigate a critical illness and its costs. 

Methodology 

We reviewed 20 critical illness insurance companies and their policies before selecting the best critical illness insurance policies by category type. Factors taken into consideration included conditions covered, monthly rates and premiums when available, maximum coverage, benefit period, how quickly the coverage term begins, payout terms, and company ratings by AM Best (when available). We also gave preference to companies that offer coverage across a higher number of states, ease of application, and less time for a decision on coverage.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. NCBI. Myth and Measurement: The Case of Medical Bankruptcies.