What to look for in your critical illness plan

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Discover how to find the critical illness plan that’s best for you and your future.

Life is full of surprises — and not all of them are fun. On the pleasant end of the surprise spectrum you can find birthday parties, new grandchildren and Christmas presents. And on the less-exciting end, many Americans may be shocked by unexpected medical debt.

In fact, medical debt is the top reason Americans hear from debt collectors.


Many Americans are diagnosed with heart disease, cancer or strokes every year. These critical conditions can be considered common, and they can put a serious strain on your budget.

For many, a regular health plan isn’t enough to prepare for these out-of-pocket costs. But the more prepared you are, the easier it will be to handle the future, so you can focus on treatment, not bills if the unexpected happens. 

That’s where critical illness insurance has your back.

Critical illness insurance can help you cover out-of-pocket medical and non-medical costs that come with a serious illness. But with so many options out there, how do you know which plan is best for you?

Here’s how to compare critical illness plans to help you make the best choice.

Waiting period

A waiting period in most insurance plans is the amount of time that must pass before your plan benefits will kick in and begin to pay. 

If your plan has a waiting period, the first diagnosis of your critical illness must be made after the waiting period is over. 

If you’re diagnosed before or during the waiting period, your plan might not pay the benefits outlined in the plan, but it’s best to check with your insurance carrier to be sure.

For example, if you have a heart attack and you’re still in the waiting period, you most likely won’t receive the benefit payment. 

It’s important to consider a critical illness plan now before the unexpected happens. Ask about your plan’s waiting period to know your options.

What’s covered

Although your plan can help with costs that go along with a major health event, not all plans cover the same illnesses.Your plan may offer full benefits for invasive cancer, and less for cancer in the earliest stages. For example, your plan might not pay any benefits for basal cell skin cancer. 

Before you buy a plan, find out what it covers so you know what to expect.

Benefits payout 

If you’re diagnosed with an illness that’s covered by your plan, most benefits will be paid in a lump sum. This means you’ll receive one check for the full amount to use however you want. 

You can use the funds to cover deductibles and co-payments, medicine or therapy, and even everyday bills like rent, utilities and groceries. 

Amount paid for each covered illness

Your plan coverage is usually based on the type of illness you have.

Your plan may come with a recurrence benefit that pays if your condition returns. If you have a stroke (and receive the plan benefit) and have another stroke a few months later, the plan will pay again. Check out your plan to see how it works.

Monthly cost

Your plan premium is usually based on your age and medical history. 

Smokers, for example, may pay more for coverage.

Applying for a plan is different with each insurance company. A “simplified issue” plan usually includes a few short health questions. Sometimes, more health information is needed before the plan will be issued. 

Critical illness insurance can be a safety net when you’re most financially vulnerable. Planning will give you the confidence of knowing you’ll have a nest egg if the unexpected happens. 

Guardian Direct has critical illness plans to help make paying your bills the least of your worries, so you can focus on your treatment and recovery.


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Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice.(exp.12/21)