Protecting Your Health: Critical Illness Insurance

Posted on July 29, 2020

It’s not something we like to dwell on, but even healthy people can be diagnosed with a life-threatening (or critical) illness. It does happen, and it can happen to anyone.

Thanks to ever-improving medical knowledge, diseases that would have been considered a death sentence even twenty years ago have become survivable in many cases – most notably, cancer.

Cancer: more survivable, but also increasingly common

Although cancer is now far more treatable than it has been in the past, it is unfortunately also far more prevalent: half of all people will be affected during their lifetime, and over the past two decades it has affected 20% more 25 to 49 year olds than it did previously. Its likelihood increases with age, and the UK has an aging workforce.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer, and Scottish Widows revealed in 2015 that 63% of critical health insurance claims were for cancer, typically:

  • prostate cancer for men (average age 57);
  • ovarian cancer for women (average age 47);
  • brain tumours for younger people.

People care more about cancer than serious illnesses

Surveys by other insurers including Aviva, Canada Life, Clerical Medical, and charity Cancer Research, have shown that – although Brits fear cancer more than any other critical illness (including Alzheimer’s, heart disease or a stroke) – we have an alarming tendency to carry on regardless.

Unfortunately, they also do little to safeguard their health

Cancer Research estimate that 40% of people who get cancer could have avoided it if they had lived a more healthy lifestyle, yet nearly two thirds of typical survey respondents do not even try to eat sensibly or exercise regularly, and only half avoid over-exposure to the sun to minimalise the risk of skin cancer.

Rather than caring for their health, the majority of people (over 80%) choose to put their faith in treatments for cancer continuing to improve over the next two decades and driving the survival rate still higher.

Cancer is still somewhat of a taboo subject at work

Although attitudes are changing in the workplace, cancer can still be a taboo subject for some. Even though 85% of the general adult population have experienced cancer (either personally, or their family’s or friends’ lives), 15% wouldn’t want colleagues to know they had cancer, 10% feared that telling their employer would diminish their career prospects, and nearly 20% would prefer to go on working rather than ask for time off.

If you become seriously ill, it’s highly likely working life will be disrupted

If you are diagnosed with cancer it is almost certain that you will not be able to keep your normal work schedule.  Treatment often includes recovery days, and some people need to stop working altogether and even be cared for whilst they are being cured.

Many employees worry this would not be acceptable to bosses

When it comes to being allowed a flexible work schedule and / or time off to deal with the impact of a critical illness, a 2017 survey found that only 30% of respondents thought they would be able to negotiate this with their employer – and this fell to 26% of people with personal experience of cancer.

A shocking 36% of respondents would expect no support from their employer if diagnosed with cancer, rising to 45% in those who have actually had the disease. What’s worrying is that these responses indicate that the reality is worse than the expectation.

Only 10% of respondents said that their employer provided them with critical illness cover as part of their employee care package.

Whilst medical treatment and survival rates have improved, the financial impact of a serious health problem has not lessened in the slightest: indeed, more likely the opposite is true.

A Critical Illness policy protects your financial health

If you do become seriously ill, the last thing you need to be worrying about whilst you are in treatment and recovery is your ability to make ends meet and to continue to provide for yourself and any dependent partners or children you may have.

Don’t risk losing your savings, or even your home, to illness

A 2018 survey revealed that 61% of respondents feared being unable to cover household expenses or childcare costs if they had to reduce their working hours or stop working altogether to fight cancer.

Macmillan Cancer Support have published figures showing that 28% of cancer patients (perhaps 700,000 people) have no savings at all, despite the loss of earnings and increased expenses brought about by the disease affecting their personal finances by an average of £570 monthly.

Over 30,000 people in their 40s who were diagnosed with cancer had to borrow money from their parents, or even move in with parents or in-laws after having to resort to selling their house – and these figures would probably be higher if more people had the option.

Don’t leave it to chance: arrange cover while you can

This is where the right insurance will protect both you and your family’s financial health, leaving you to focus on beating your illness.

Many recent surveys continue to show that huge numbers of breadwinners have no appropriate policy in place: for example, a 2017 survey of over 5,000 fathers found that only 16% had critical illness cover – and yet 21% had their mobile phones insured! This is despite 42% of the same survey respondents stating that they could live off their savings for just three months, with 21% unable to cope financially for even one month if they had to stop working.

In recent years there have been sweeping welfare reforms and cuts to public spending, and this trend is set to continue. Rather than be faced with the prospect of losing your life’s savings and even your home to make ends meet, it is surely far more prudent to put some protection for your finances in place.


No guarantee can be given that the information provided is accurate in the present or the future. It is not intended to constitute either a statement of applicable law or financial advice, and responsibility cannot be accepted for any subsequent loss following activity or inactivity by any individual or organisation. Indeed, such information should NOT be acted upon without first receiving appropriate and specific professional advice.