Critical illness coverage: Protecting your savings and family

Critical illnesses can be defined as any major life-threatening condition such as stroke, heart attack and, of course, cancer. Insurance against such events is considered an important part of financial planning.

Insurance can provide funds for illnesses such as a cancer diagnosis which could cost millions for treatment. Coverage under a critical illness plan will ensure that major illnesses will not deplete all your savings and investments or leave your family destitute.

All life insurance companies offer plans for critical illness coverage which you can compare and see which one best suits your circumstances.

CUNA Mutual Insurance and its affiliated credit unions, for instance, through which it offers the family critical illness plan provides up to $3 million in critical illness coverage, as indicated on its website.

Critical illnesses covered include cancer, heart attack, stroke, paralysis, major burns, and coma. Coverage includes up to five eligible family members.

The plan also offers up to $3 million worth of coverage should any of these family members be affected by one of the six critical illnesses. Enrollment must occur before age 60.

Scotia Life offers Scotia Criticare covering heart attack, stroke, cancer, major burns, paralysis, blindness, deafness, loss of speech and coma, according to its website.

Scotia indicates on its website that there is no medical exam required and all Jamaicans from 18 to 60 are eligible. One can choose from coverage amounts ranging from $750,000 to $3 million which will be payable upon first diagnosis of the covered illness.

JN Life covers 13 conditions with coverage options ranging from $1 million to $6 million dollars. Illnesses covered are cancer, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, major organ transplant, coronary artery bypass surgery, coma, paralysis, major burns, partial kidney failure, loss of speech, and deafness. Clients are covered for the duration up to age 76, even after payout for a previous critical illness.

The policy must be purchased by clients aged between 18-60. The policy expires at age 75 or the 20th policy anniversary, whichever is later. When the lifetime of the policy has ended, all the premia paid from inception will be returned.

JN Life offers also a family critical-illness plan which permits addition of up to six members of family, such as your children (as early as six weeks), spouse, parents or parents-in-law. This plan, however, pays out only on the first instance. Each family member will be removed from the plan after their claim.

Sagicor Life Jamaica now offers a critical illness insurance plan which offers coverage of up to $10 million to children between the ages of three months to 15 years. The Child Protector Plan offers critical illness coverage for up to 15 conditions, including severe asthma, rheumatic fever, blindness, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, deafness, major burns, stroke, and Type 1 diabetes.

The plan also offers a hospitalisation benefit and a limited death benefit, and carries an investment component.

Guardian Life Critical Illness Protection plan covers conditions including heart attack, stroke and cancer, as well as permanent disability. The life of the policy is 25 years. The Family Income Benefit component gives loved ones a regular payout for the rest of the policy's lifetime if you die.

If you were to die 15 years into the policy, it will pay out for the remaining 10 years. But once the policy ends, the cover and the payouts will stop.

Insurance companies will not pay for critical illness if it is the result of willful self-inflicted injury or illness, drug and/or alcohol abuse, pre-existing conditions, the result of crime, and willful ingestion or inhalation of poisonous substances. It also does not cover bodily injury due to violence.

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