DEFINITION of 'Catastrophic Illness Insurance'

A type of insurance that protects the insured, in the event of specified major health events, during a defined period of time. Catastrophic illness insurance coverage is usually a lump sum, and can be full or partial depending on the condition and the policy. Some conditions covered could include (but not limited to); long-term hospitalization, heart attack, stroke or cancer.

Also known as "critical illness insurance". Catastrophic illness insurance can be used to supplement a beneficiary's existing health and disability coverage. Restrictions are unique to the provider, but typically claims will be rejected due to: pre-existing conditions, not surviving 30 days after diagnosis, and any critical diagnosis within the first 90 days.

BREAKING DOWN 'Catastrophic Illness Insurance'

Catastrophic illness insurance will have lower premiums for a younger/healthier person but basic medial costs, such as annual check-ups are not covered. The average payout in 2007 was under $100,000 with an average age just under 50 years old.

Catastrophic illness insurance may also be called a "major medical plan", and will often include expenses incurred both inside and outside the hospital, such as in-home nurse care and lab tests. This type of insurance was created in large part to prevent bankruptcy due to a lengthy or expensive illness, and is even common in some developing nations.

The U.S., in 1986, under President Ronald Regan, explored the possibility of creating a health insurance program called "catastrophic illness insurance". This program focused on insuring the elderly facing long-term expensive healthcare needs through voluntary participation. Initially it gained support but was voted out in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1989.

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