The financial toll of a critical illness can be devastating, and that’s true regardless of the quality of your health insurance. The reality is, facing a critical illness often means spending months off work while normal living expenses and bills continue to pile up. And even when you recover from a critical illness like a major organ transplant or cancer, it can take a considerable amount of time to recover financially and get back on track.
This is likely why medical bankruptcies are still incredibly common, even after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. For many families, it’s considerably easier to file for bankruptcy and get a fresh start than it is to face a mountain of medical debt for years or decades on end.
Interestingly, there is one insurance product that can help ward off the worst consequences of becoming gravely ill. Critical illness insurance is a supplementary insurance product that provides consumers with cash to cover living expenses when they need it the most.
We profiled more than a dozen providers that offer this coverage to find the best policies for the average consumer, so keep reading to learn how they stack up.
The 7 Best Critical Illness Insurance Companies of 2021
- Aflac: Best Guaranteed Issue Policy
- Mutual of Omaha: Most Comprehensive Benefits
- Colonial Life Insurance Company: Best for Employers
- Liberty Mutual: Best Online Application Process
- AIG: Best for Lifetime Coverage
- Assurity Life Insurance: Best for No Waiting Period
- American Fidelity: Best Recurrent Diagnosis Benefit
Best Guaranteed Issue Policy: Aflac
Aflac receives the top nod because it excels in its offering of guaranteed issue critical illness insurance with no health questions asked before you enroll. This coverage is available in amounts of up to $20,000.
Guaranteed issue policies available with no health questions asked
According to Aflac, most claims are paid out quickly, in around four days
Major critical illnesses are covered, like cancer, stroke, and organ failure
Complimentary coverage for dependent children
Coverage amounts for guaranteed issue policies are lower than some competitors'
You have to speak with an agent to get a quote
Some conditions, like non-invasive cancer or coronary artery bypass surgery, pay out less than your policy amount
We chose Aflac as the best guaranteed issue policy due to the fact you can enroll without having to answer any health questions, and your policy is guaranteed. The company was founded in 1955 but has changed names and hands over the decades since then. Aflac critical illness insurance is underwritten by Continental American Insurance Company, which now has an A+ rating for financial strength from AM Best.
Aflac critical illness coverage is written to pay out a lump sum in the event you’re diagnosed with a critical illness like cancer, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, skin cancer, and more. You can also receive the cash payout of your policy if you need a bone marrow transplant or an organ transplant.
You can purchase a basic guaranteed issue policy with a coverage amount of $10,000, but you can also upgrade to an enhanced policy worth $20,000. Also note that each dependent child is covered at 50% under your policy at no additional charge, making this coverage a good option if you’re worried about your children’s health.
Most Comprehensive Benefits: Mutual of Omaha
We chose Mutual of Omaha as the provider with the most comprehensive benefits due to the additional conditions included in their critical illness insurance coverage, such as deafness, paralysis, and blindness. You can also purchase optional riders to enhance your coverage, and you’ll receive a return of the premiums you paid upon death.
Customize your policy with additional riders
Buy coverage that lasts for 10 years or up to your lifetime
Some conditions, like coronary artery bypass surgery, only pay out 25% of your policy amount
You have to work with an agent to get a quote
Mutual of Omaha excels when it comes to offering critical illness insurance for a broad range of conditions, and with select add-ons you can purchase to make your coverage even more robust. Founded in 1909, this provider has a long history of offering life insurance, long-term care insurance, annuities, and various investment products. Mutual of Omaha also boasts an A+ rating for financial strength from AM Best.
When it comes to critical illness insurance, this provider promises no surprises and the ability to renew your policy for your entire lifetime. Limited underwriting is also a major plus, and you can add all your dependents to your policy for a flat amount regardless of the number of children you have.
Interestingly, this policy also comes with a return of the premiums that you pay upon your death, which is a major benefit for your heirs. You can also tailor your policy with optional riders, although the options available to you can depend on where you live, your age, and other factors.
Mutual of Omaha stands out due to the variety of conditions their critical illness coverage includes. In addition to major conditions like cancer and stroke, Mutual of Omaha critical illness insurance covers blindness, paralysis, deafness, and more.
Best for Employers: Colonial Life Insurance Company
We chose Colonial Life Insurance Company as best for employers due to their critical illness policy offerings for employers who want to provide this coverage to their workers. Employee coverage can be offered in a guaranteed issue format, meaning employees with health conditions could gain new protections. This voluntary benefit plan can help employees feel more secure and appreciated while providing coverage that can shield them from catastrophic financial losses in the event of a critical illness.
Policies cover heart attack, stroke, end-stage renal failure, and other critical illnesses depending on the design of your plan
Coverage available for employees and their dependents
Claims can be filed and managed online
Employer plans do come with guaranteed issue options
You have to work with an agent to get a quote and compare coverage
Policy inclusions can vary depending on where you live and the plan you’re offered
Employers who want to offer their workers critical illness coverage should explore Colonial Life Insurance Company and all they have to offer, especially considering employee coverage can be guaranteed. Employee coverage is also portable, which is a huge benefit for workers who may not stay at the same job for their whole lives. This provider was founded in 1937, and they have a long history of providing high-quality insurance products.
Group critical illness plans from this provider come with guaranteed issue options and limited underwriting, so you could potentially provide all of your workers with this important coverage. Heart attacks, strokes, and renal failure are all covered, and additional conditions may be included depending on the plan you select.
A major benefit of group plans from Colonial Life is the fact that employers can add additional coverage for their dependents, and that some policies are portable, so employees can take them with them if they switch jobs. Colonial Life also lets employees file and manage their claims online using the company portal for exceptional convenience.
Best Online Application Process: Liberty Mutual
We chose Liberty Mutual as the insurer with the best online application process due to the fact you can enter your information and get a free quote online. You can even fill out a basic application online and get coverage the same day.
Compare pricing and apply for a policy online
Coverage amounts up to $50,000 available
Buy coverage for as little as $12 per month
Coverage not available in Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wyoming
Medical questions required during application process
Pre-existing conditions not covered
Waiting period can apply before coverage begins
Liberty Mutual surpasses its competitors when it comes to getting a quote and applying online. You can answer some basic questions and find out if you’re eligible in a matter of minutes and you can set up coverage as soon as you pay your premiums and sign the paperwork for your policy.
Liberty Mutual was originally founded in 1912 and it has offered a variety of insurance products, investments, and more since then. This provider also has an A rating from AM Best for its financial strength.
Critical illness insurance from Liberty Mutual automatically covers cancer, coronary artery bypass surgery, heart attack, organ transplant, and stroke, and additional illnesses may be covered depending on your state. Note that insurance from Liberty Mutual is available in amounts up to $50,000, which is higher than many competing critical illness policies offer. You can purchase coverage for yourself and your family members, and you can receive a lump-sum payment upon diagnosis that you can use however you want.
Best for Lifetime Coverage: AIG
With AIG CriticalCare Plus coverage, you can purchase coverage that lasts up to your entire lifetime with benefit amounts up to $500,000, which makes it our choice as best for lifetime coverage.
Buy coverage for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years, or your lifetime
Coverage amounts up to $500,000 available
Tailor your coverage with additional riders
Up to $50 in payments annually for a wide variety of medical tests
Policies with coverage amounts over $100,000 require a medical exam
You have to work with an agent to get a quote
AIG offers some of the most comprehensive lifetime coverage benefits with payment amounts up to $500,000 available. This provider was founded in 1919, so AIG has a long history of offering life insurance and other insurance products that stand the test of time. AIG also reports an A rating for financial strength from AM Best.
AIG critical care insurance provides coverage for a plethora of conditions ranging from invasive cancer to coma, heart attack, stroke, renal failure, and severe burns. You can purchase additional riders that provide coverage for accidental death and dismemberment, or for an extension of your benefits. You can also purchase an optional HIV rider if you’re a medical professional.
We like the fact you can purchase coverage for up to $500,000, but you should note that a medical exam is required for coverage amounts over $100,000. Also note that you can purchase coverage for your spouse and your dependent children.
Best for No Waiting Period: Assurity Life Insurance
Assurity Life Insurance critical illness insurance stands out due to the fact there’s no waiting period for most coverage and procedures, which is why it is our top choice as best for no waiting period. You won’t need a medical exam for most coverage amounts, either.
No waiting period for most coverage and procedures
Potential for no medical exam
Coverage amounts up to $75,000 are available
Coverage not available in New York
You have to work with an agent to get a quote
We chose Assurity Life Insurance due to the fact there’s no waiting period for most coverage and procedures, and you may not need a medical exam. Assurity Life was founded in 1890, so it has been around for well over 100 years. This company also has an A- rating from AM Best. Coverage from this provider applies to a broad range of conditions including heart attack, coronary artery bypass surgery, angioplasty, stroke, invasive or non-invasive cancer, kidney (renal) failure, major organ transplant, advanced Alzheimer’s disease, paralysis, and coma. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to purchase coverage for advanced conditions such as Advanced ALS, Advanced Parkinson’s Disease, blindness, deafness, benign brain tumors, and severe burns.
If you’re a customer of Assurity Life, you’ll have the option to make a payment on your policy or file a claim through the company’s online portal. When you file a claim, you can receive a cash payout for your policy amount right away, which can help you cover living expenses and bills so you can focus on your recovery.
Best Recurrent Diagnosis Benefit: American Fidelity
American Fidelity offers a unique recurrent diagnosis benefit that pays out 50% of your policy upon the second diagnosis of the same condition. They also stand out due to their simplified underwriting policy with no medical exams required, making American Fidelity the insurer with the best recurrent diagnosis benefit.
Simple underwriting with no medical exams
Health screening benefit of $50 each year
Recurrent diagnosis benefit
You can file a claim online
Pre-existing conditions may not be covered
You must work with an agent to get a quote and coverage; some plans are only available through employers
American Fidelity stands out due to their recurrent diagnosis benefit, which will pay 50% of the original policy amount if you’re diagnosed with the same condition for a second time. This company has been around since 1960 and has an A+ rating from AM Best.
With American Fidelity, you may be able to get coverage without a medical exam, and coverage amounts from $10,000 to $30,000 are available. You can also get up to $50 per year toward health screenings that might help you avoid a critical illness, and employer policies from this provider are portable, meaning you can take them with you wherever you go.
Another benefit of American Fidelity critical illness coverage is the fact this provider has its own online portal where you can pay a bill, file a claim, and follow up on the claims process. Just note that certain pre-existing conditions may bar you from getting coverage, depending on your unique policy details.
What Is Critical Illness Insurance?
Where health insurance coverage intends to lessen the pain of medical bills when you’re sick, critical illness insurance was created to help cover other bills and expenses you face when you’re ill and unable to work.
In general, the funds from a critical illness insurance policy are used to pay for living expenses like rent or mortgage, food, car payments, childcare, and even transportation for care. However, you can use the funds from your policy however you want, as you’ll typically receive a lump sum of your policy amount once your claim is accepted.
What Illnesses Are Covered by Critical Illness Insurance?
Most critical illness insurance policies kick in when you endure a condition like a heart attack, stroke, cancer, an organ transplant, or a coronary bypass, but some policies include a larger range of conditions including blindness, deafness, or paralysis. As you compare critical illness insurance policies and providers, make sure you have an understanding of the number of illnesses and medical conditions that qualify for coverage.
Is Critical Illness Insurance Worth It?
Just like any other type of insurance, critical illness insurance could be life-saving if you actually need it. After all, this coverage could keep you financially afloat if you are affected by a serious illness and you cannot work.
You can use a critical illness insurance cash payout to cover groceries, out-of-pocket medical expenses, prescriptions, transportation to and from treatment, and your rent or a mortgage. On the flip side, you may struggle to cover these bills if you don’t have this important coverage in place.
Just keep in mind that some policies are limited in terms of the length and scope of coverage. You can buy critical illness insurance that only lasts for 10 years, for example, which will not help you if you become ill right after your policy expires. With that in mind, you should strive to buy coverage that will provide peace of mind during your entire career, and with high enough limits to protect you financially if you need it.
What Does Critical Illness Insurance Cost?
For a 40-year-old woman in good health who lives in Indiana, a policy could cost $22 to $55 per month for $20,000 to $50,000 in critical illness insurance. However, the cost of a policy can vary depending on the provider you choose, where you live, your age, and your health. If you want to save money on critical illness insurance, you should shop around with at least three to four providers before you buy.
How We Chose the Best Critical Illness Insurance Companies
Our experts compared more than a dozen providers to find critical illness insurers with broad policies that include a wide range of illnesses. We looked for companies that have excellent ratings for financial strength, and we checked for areas where each provider stands out, such as additional riders you can add to your policy or complementary coverage for children. We also gave preference to providers who let you compare quotes and apply for a policy online, as well as those that let you file or manage claims using an online portal.
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AM Best. "AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company and Its Subsidiaries." Accessed December 23, 2020.
AM Best. “AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of Liberty Mutual Holding Company Inc. and Its Subsidiaries.” Accessed December 23, 2020.
AM Best “AM Best Affirms Credit Ratings of American International Group, Inc. and Most Subsidiaries; Downgrades ICRs of L/H Subsidiaries.” Accessed December 23, 2020.
AM Best. "Assurity Life Insurance Company." Accessed Dec. 23, 2020.
AM Best. "A.M. Best Affirms Credit Ratings of American Fidelity Assurance Co. and Upgrades Credit Ratings of American Public Life Ins. Co." Accessed December 23, 2020.