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What are the 36 critical illnesses?

Find out which 36 medical conditions are covered in most critical illness cover policies

A photo of Grace Lynch, the author

By Grace Lynch

Published on: 13 November 2021

6 min read

What are the 36 critical illnesses?

Serious illnesses can happen unexpectedly and bring with them many challenges, including money worries if you are left unable to work. Did you know there is an insurance policy specifically designed to support you if you are diagnosed with a serious illness?

You might have heard of critical illness cover before, but it is possible you don’t fully understand exactly what it is. This a type of insurance offered by many UK insurance providers and each company will cover a varying number of medical conditions.

There are a wide range of illnesses that could be covered with critical illness insurance, and you can choose the level of cover based on what best suits your budget. Though you can get cover for many conditions (or just cover the most common), there will usually be 36 main critical illnesses covered in this type of policy.

What is critical illness cover?

Put simply, critical illness cover (or critical illness insurance) is an insurance policy that will pay you a tax-free lump sum if you are diagnosed with a critical (serious) illness. Every insurance provider will cover slightly different illnesses and conditions, but there are some common ones that will be covered by most.

According to insurance provider Zurich, the most common reasons to claim on critical illness cover are:

  1. Cancer
  2. Heart conditions
  3. Stroke
  4. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

This type of cover is widely available and can be bought on its own or as an add on to a life insurance policy.

Critical illness cover can be a good way to provide yourself, your partner and family with financial security for if you were to become very ill and unable to work. You can use the money you receive to cover financial commitments you might otherwise struggle with including:

  • Mortgage or rent payments
  • Household bills (Utilities)
  • Medical expenses
  • Debt or finance repayments e.g. car finance

What are the 36 critical illnesses?

Although the number of critical illnesses covered can change depending on the policy and provider you choose, there are 36 that most policies will cover.

These conditions are widely thought of as the 36 main critical illnesses:

Alzheimer’s disease HIV 
Angioplasty Kidney failure 
Bacterial meningitis Loss of independence 
(Benign) Brain tumour Loss of speech 
Brain surgery Major organ transplant 
Cancer Medullary cystic disease 
Cardiomyopathy Multiple Sclerosis (MS) 
Chronic Aplastic Anaemia Muscular Dystrophy 
Coma Paralysis (of limbs) 
Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery Parkinson’s Disease 
Coronary Artery Disease Permanent blindness 
Encephalitis Permanent deafness 
End stage liver failure Primary Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension 
End stage lung disease Severe coronary artery disease 
Fulminant viral Hepatitis Stroke 
Head trauma Surgery of the aorta 
Heart attack Terminal illness 
Heart valve surgery Third degree burns 

The above examples are the most commonly covered medical conditions, but some providers will cover as many as 182 different critical illnesses. This level of cover will be very extensive and so will usually cost more. Currently, Vitality is the insurance provider that will cover the most illnesses.

Learn more about Vitality’s 3 NEW Serious Illness Cover (Critical Illness Cover) policies.

Which illnesses are covered by critical illness insurance?

This will vary depending on the insurance provider and even on the specific policy you choose. Some insurance companies will give you the option of standard cover or ‘enhanced’ cover (usually available at an extra cost).

Below we have some examples of insurance companies and how many illnesses they cover as part of their critical illness insurance policies. You can compare and assess the level of cover available with each provider to work out the best choice for your needs.

Insurance provider Conditions covered by standard or ‘core’ cover Conditions covered by  ‘enhanced’ cover (if available) 
Aegon51 conditions covered overall  
39 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
12 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £25,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Aegon does not offer enhanced critical illness cover. 
AIG25 conditions covered overall  
23 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
2 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £25,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
50 conditions covered overall  
30 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
20 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £35,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Aviva53 conditions covered overall  
42 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
9 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 20% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £20,000 (whichever is the lower amount)  
2 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £25,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Aviva does not offer enhanced critical illness cover. 
Canada Life* 96 conditions covered overall  
52 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
44 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 20% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £20,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Canada Life does not offer enhanced critical illness cover. 
Guardian 182176 conditions covered overall  
54 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
22 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 20% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £50,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Guardian 1821 does not offer enhanced critical illness cover. 
Legal & General39 conditions covered overall  
37 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
2 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £25,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Legal & General does not offer enhanced critical illness cover. 
LV= (Liverpool Victoria)40 conditions covered overall  
38 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
2 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £30,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
87 conditions covered overall  
49 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
38 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £25,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Royal London67 conditions covered overall  
47 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
20 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 50% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £30,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Royal London does not offer enhanced critical illness cover. 
Scottish Widows40 conditions covered overall  
30 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
10 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £30,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 
Scottish Widows does not offer enhanced critical illness cover. 
Vitality153 conditions covered overall which will qualify for a pay out of between 5%-100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for, depending on how severe your illness is.  
Vitality rank illness severity on a scale from A (most severe) to G (least severe)  
182 conditions covered overall which will qualify for a pay out of between 5%-100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for, depending on how severe your illness is.  
Vitality rank illness severity on a scale from A (most severe) to G (least severe)    
Zurich42 conditions covered overall  
40 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
2 conditions will equal a partial pay out of up to £25,000  
99 conditions covered overall  
51 conditions will qualify for a pay out of 100% of the amount (£s) you are covered for  
48 conditions will equal a partial pay out of 25% of the amount (£s) you are covered for OR £25,000 (whichever is the lower amount) 

You can also find out more about how to claim on a critical illness policy in our ‘How do critical illness claims work?’ guide

How much should I pay for critical illness cover?

Value for money is often the main concern when buying a new insurance policy. The cost of critical illness cover can vary depending on how much you want to pay and your personal circumstances.

Depending on the number of conditions you want to be covered for and the insurance provider you choose, the cost per month can be as much or as little suits you.

If you need help choosing the right policy and provider, it could be worth speaking to an insurance specialist who can help you compare the policy prices currently on the market.

Note: The price of critical illness cover will vary depending on the provider and individual policy you choose. This can be helpful as you can choose how many illnesses you want to be covered for based on your budget. Other factors that can affect the cost of your monthly premium include your age, family medical history and more.

Resources

Statista – Sickness absence rate in the UK (1995-2021)

Gov.uk – Sickness absence in the UK labour market: 2021

ABI – Payouts for bereavement, illness, and injury claims top £18.6 million a day

ABI – Record amount paid out to help families cope with bereavement, ill health, and injury

Zurich Intermediary – Critical illness data makes astounding reading

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