Best Critical Illness Insurance in Canada: Company Reviews

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In This Article

What is critical illness insurance used for?

Critical illness insurance is a type of policy used to protect you if you're diagnosed or afflicted with a serious condition that's possibly life-threatening.

Your insurer will pay you a tax-free lump sum if you're diagnosed with a critical illness on their approved list. You can use this money for things like: 

  • Paying your bills while you're off work
  • Covering treatments
  • Assisting with medical expenses
  • Supplementing your income

‍Different critical illness plans will cover different medical issues, but some typical ones include stroke, heart attack, cancer and organ failure. These are usually covered in most critical illness insurance policies.

What is the best critical illness insurance in Canada?

The best critical illness insurance in Canada is PolicyMe if you're looking for the most complete coverage at a reasonable price. Keep these things in mind when deciding which critical illness insurance is best for you:

  • How much critical illness insurance coverage you're looking for
  • How many conditions you want to be protected against
  • How much your life insurance premiums will cost
  • How easy the application for coverage is

‍Video Summary: 3 things you should know about Critical Illness Insurance

Most major insurance companies in Canada offer critical illness insurance coverage. Let's take a look at some of the biggest names in critical illness insurance and see how they compare:

Critical illness insurance companies and coverage

Price chart outlining best critical illness insurance rates in Canada across providers.  PolicyMe

PolicyMe critical illness insurance

Reviews.io score: ★★★★★ (4.83)

PolicyMe offers the most extensive critical illness coverage in Canada, covering 44 critical illnesses and conditions. Most other leading competitors in the space cover 34.

We offer flexible coverage options:

  • Choose from $5,000 to $1M in coverage
  • Term length of 10 to 30 years; similar to our term life insurance offerings
  • The policy includes coverage for more cardiovascular and cancer conditions than any other Canadian insurer

Plus, you can apply for term life and critical illness insurance at the same time, because we value keeping things simple and easy for our customers.

We're all about providing fast financial relief for you and your family. With PolicyMe:

  • There's no 30-day waiting period after diagnosis to submit a claim for 25 of 44 conditions, including all covered cancers.
  • You'll receive a lump sum payment without the long wait, so you can focus on your recovery.
  • The application process is quick and simple. 
  • With our streamlined, digital-first approach, you can get an instant quote for critical illness insurance.

Apply in 20 minutes and find out if you're approved right away:

Sun Life critical illness insurance

InsurEye score: ★☆☆☆☆ (1.0)

Another major insurance provider in Canada, Sun Life offers two types of critical illness coverage.

Sun Critical Illness insurance

  • Full protection against 26 serious illnesses
  • List of eight less severe conditions under which you'd receive a partial payout
  • Available in a renewable 10-year term, a term that covers you up to 75 years old, or a lifetime policy
  • Coverage from $25,000 to $1M, with riders including return of premium

If you're interested in learning more about Sun Life critical illness insurance or applying for coverage, you'll have to go through an advisor.

Express Critical Illness

  • Covers between one and eight life-threatening conditions
  • Coverage amount of $25,000 (for their basic or enhanced plans) or $50,000 (for their comfort plan)

For the Express Critical Illness policy, you can be approved online without doing a health exam or submitting bloodwork. But the tradeoff is a lower coverage amount and fewer insured illnesses.

Manulife critical illness insurance

InsurEye score: ★☆☆☆☆ (1.3)

One of Canada’s largest insurance companies, Manulife offers several critical illness insurance options. 

Lifecheque

  • Manulife's most extensive and flexible policy
  • 25 critical illnesses eligible for coverage

If you're diagnosed with any of the conditions on the list, you'll receive a payout as long as you've fulfilled the required waiting period. For another six conditions, you may be eligible for a partial payout if you're diagnosed early. 

2. CoverMe

  • Offers up to $75,000 coverage for those between 18 and 65
  • The policy will stay in effect until you turn 75

CoverMe coverage is pretty affordable – a 35-year-old non-smoking man will only pay about $27 per month for a $75,000 plan. And a medical exam or questionnaire is not needed for approval. But beware: this type of policy only covers five major illnesses, so it's an "affordable" option for a reason.

You can get an online quote for CoverMe but you'll need to go through a Manulife advisor to get any information or start the enrolment process for Lifecheque.

You have the option of buying a "return of premium" rider for an extra cost. This means you can request the return of the premiums you've made towards your critical illness policy if you've never made a claim.

BMO critical illness insurance

InsurEye score: ★☆☆☆☆ (1.0)

BMO offers relatively typical critical illness coverage. They come in two types: a term plan or a permanent plan that cover 25 critical illnesses.

BMO's term plan

  • This plan has renewable coverage at for 10 or 20 years
  • If you choose a term plan, you can convert it to a permanent one later

BMO's permanent plan

  • This plan provides coverage until you're 75 or 100 (your choice)

A 35-year-old, non-smoking man can expect to pay about $27 per month for a 20-year term and about $58 per month on the low end for a permanent one. Which is not a very competitive rate, given the small number of covered conditions. Like their competitors, they offer a limited critical illness plan that covers fewer conditions. For this policy, you're eligible for a benefit of up to $50,000, with premiums starting at about $17 per month for a 30-something non-smoker.

You can get a critical illness quote on their website, but the application will require a phone call. And when it comes to payouts, one customer review shares: 

"I made a $10,000 Critical Illness claim with BMO over 3 years ago and still have not been paid out! [...] I've contacted them several times, got weak apologies and was made to fill out the same claim forms I did originally to start the process all over."

Canada Life critical illness insurance

InsurEye score: ★★☆☆☆ (1.7)

Canada Life's critical illness insurance package covers:

  • Just 26 illnesses for a 10 or 20-year term (or up to 75 years old)
  • Coverage can go up to $3M

Depending on the coverage you choose, you may be eligible for extra benefits, like access to medical specialists, counselling services and legal advice. These perks come at a hefty price: you can expect much higher premiums for this type of enhanced coverage.

The online word-of-mouth is that Canada Life's value for money for their critical illness insurance is rated at just 1.5 stars out of a possible 5 (InsurEye). Like Manulife, they offer a return of premium rider, so under certain conditions, you can get your money back if you never make a claim. 

But there isn't a lot of information about their critical illness products online. So If you're interested in their critical illness insurance plans, you'll have to go through an advisor or broker.

And their lacking online experience doesn't end there; you're also not able to apply for this type of coverage online at all.

What factors affect my critical illness quote?

When seeking critical illness insurance in Canada, it's essential to understand that various factors come into play when determining your insurance premium. These factors can influence the cost of your policy and the eligibility criteria. Here's a closer look at the key factors that can affect your critical illness insurance quote:

1. Age and Gender

Age and gender play a significant role in determining your critical illness insurance premium. Generally, younger individuals tend to pay lower premiums than older individuals. This is because the risk of developing a critical illness typically increases with age. Additionally, gender can also be a factor, as some critical illnesses may have different prevalence rates among men and women.

2. Lifestyle Choices

Your lifestyle choices can have a direct impact on your critical illness insurance quote. If you engage in high-risk activities, such as extreme sports or hazardous occupations, you may be considered a higher risk, leading to higher premiums. Conversely, individuals with healthier lifestyles may be eligible for more favorable rates.

3. Health Status and Medical History

Your current health status and medical history are among the most significant factors affecting your critical illness insurance premium. Insurance providers will assess your overall health, any pre-existing medical conditions, family medical history, and lifestyle habits, such as diet and exercise. A clean bill of health typically results in lower premiums, while pre-existing conditions may lead to higher costs or even exclusions.

4. Policy Term Length

The length of the policy term you choose can influence your insurance quote. Longer policy terms generally result in higher premiums, as they provide coverage for a more extended period, increasing the likelihood of a critical illness occurring during that time. Shorter terms may offer lower premiums but provide coverage for a limited period.

5. Smoking Habits

Smoking is a significant risk factor for many critical illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. As a result, smokers typically face higher insurance premiums than non-smokers. It's essential to be honest about your smoking habits when applying for critical illness insurance to ensure accurate pricing.

6. Coverage Amount

The amount of coverage you select will directly impact your premium. Higher coverage amounts mean higher premiums. It's essential to strike a balance between the coverage you need to protect your financial well-being and a premium that fits comfortably within your budget.

7. Additional Considerations

Additional factors may also come into play, depending on the insurance provider and policy. These can include occupation, location, and the specific critical illnesses covered by the policy. Some policies may have exclusions or additional riders that can affect your quote.

Who needs critical illness insurance?

The average Canadian might need critical illness insurance coverage. If you’re relatively young and healthy, it’s hard to see why it’s a necessary expense. But like all insurance types, it’s protection against a worst-case scenario. Here’s a list of people that might need critical illness insurance: 

  • Parents
  • Employees without critical illness coverage with work 
  • Freelancers, contractors
  • Couples that financially rely on each other
  • People without supplemental health insurance
  • Canadians without an emergency fund

Do you have people in your life who depend on your income for financial stability? Being "critically" ill often means not being able to work. And for most of us, taking off work or paying for extra medical expenses can be financially devastating.

The funds can be used to pay for home care, specialized equipment, or medication and treatments that aren’t covered by your healthcare plan. As a rule of thumb, we suggest getting covered for an amount between three to six months of your post-tax income.

How do I buy critical illness insurance?

Here are five easy steps to help you get started with critical illness insurance:

  1. Start by looking around at quotes. Take note of what conditions each plan covers to make sure you're getting the most protection for your dollar.
  2. Think about how much coverage you need and what your term should be. You may want an extended plan or more coverage to protect your family if you can afford larger premiums. But remember: having some coverage is better than none.
  3. Apply for a policy! Remember that some brokers and agents are on commission, so you’ll need to do your homework to ensure you’re getting the best possible policy for the price you’re paying. (Quick note: PolicyMe advisors are not commissioned, so you can trust that their recommendations are based on your best interest).
  4. Once you receive your contract policy, take a good look at it before you sign. Make sure you know what conditions are covered and how much your payout will be for each.

‍If you end up diagnosed with a serious illness covered on your policy’s list of conditions, you’ll file a claim, and your insurer will pay out a tax-free lump sum. Once you’ve received the money, your coverage ends; it’s good for one payout.

If you never end up having to make a claim, you may be eligible to have a portion of your premiums refunded to you once your policy term expires. Read your terms and conditions documents carefully to see if this applies to you.

Bottom line: the best critical illness insurance comes down to your needs

  • The best critical illness insurance in Canada comes from PolicyMe, Sun Life and Manulife.
  • PolicyMe offers the most extensive critical illness coverage in Canada.
  • The average Canadian needs critical illness insurance for financial protection in case they’re unable to work due to a serious illness or condition.
  • Most Canadian insurers offer some sort of critical illness insurance policy.
  • The cheapest options allow you to obtain their critical illness insurance quotes online and apply on the spot. But they cover fewer illnesses and are capped with smaller payouts.
  • The more robust plans will cover 25-plus illnesses, but require medical underwriting to enrol. But PolicyMe covers 44.
  • PolicyMe will provide you with an instant decision. So you'll know if you've been approved or if we need more information for application right away!

Apply for the most complete critical illness coverage in Canada in 20 minutes or less. PolicyMe provides affordable coverage for more conditions than any other Canadian insurer.

Appendix: list of critical illnesses covered by PolicyMe

Here is a list of conditions covered by PolicyMe's critical illness insurance list coverage:

best critical illness insurance canada - covered conditions and illnesses by policyme

What illnesses are covered by critical illness insurance?

PolicyMe critical illness insurance covers 44 conditions, the most in Canada. Here is a breakdown of the illnesses and conditions covered, either fully or partially:

Cancer

  • Cancer of specified severity

Heart Conditions

  • Aortic surgery
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
  • Heart attack
  • Heart valve replacement or repair

Neurological Conditions

  • Stroke
  • Acquired brain injury
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Benign brain tumor
  • Coma
  • Dementia, including Alzheimer's Disease
  • Motor neuron disease (incl. ALS)
  • Parkinson's Disease and specified atypical Parkinsonian disorders
  • Paralysis

Autoimmune Conditions

  • Aplastic anaemia
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Occupational HIV infection

Sensory & Mobility Conditions

  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Loss of limbs
  • Loss of speech
  • Loss of independent existence
  • Severe burns

Transplants & Organ-Related Conditions

  • Kidney failure
  • Major organ transplant
  • Major organ failure on waiting list

Cardiovascular Conditions & Procedures

  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Coronary angioplasty
  • Endovascular aortic surgery
  • Implantation of a permanent cardiac pacemaker
  • Implantation of a permanent implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD)

Early-Stage Blood Cancers

  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia – stage 0

Early-Stage Breast Cancer

  • Breast Cancer: Ductal carcinoma in situ of the breast or lobular carcinoma in situ of the breast

Early-Stage Intestinal Cancer

  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST)

Early-Stage Prostate Cancer

  • Prostate cancer – stage T1a or T1b

Early-Stage Skin Cancers

  • Malignant melanoma – stage 1
  • Dermatofibrosarcoma
  • Primary cutaneous lymphoma

Early-Stage Thyroid Cancer

  • Papillary thyroid cancer or follicular thyroid cancer – stage 1

Other Forms Of Cancer

  • Neuroendocrine tumours (including carcinoid tumours)
  • Carcinoma in-situ (non-invasive cancer)

Mastectomies

  • Carcinoma in-situ (CIS) of the breast treated with total mastectomy

Prostatectomies

  • Prostate cancer treated with radical prostatectomy

FAQ: Best critical illness insurance Canada

What isn't covered by critical illness insurance?

Critical illness insurance won't cover conditions that aren’t on the list of approved illnesses as defined by your insurer. This means you could be diagnosed with a life-threatening condition but aren’t eligible for a payout under your critical illness plan.

For this reason, many people who choose this type of insurance will prefer an insurer that offers more robust coverage (i.e. a longer list of conditions). However, plans that cover more illnesses generally have more expensive premiums, so you’ll have to weigh whether this trade-off is worth it.

And critical illness insurance will probably not cover pre-existing conditions. You won’t be able to buy a critical illness policy after being diagnosed with a serious disease and receive a payout for it.

How does critical illness insurance pay out?

Critical illness insurance in Canada provides a lump-sum payment to the policyholder upon the diagnosis of a covered serious illness or medical condition. The payout is made directly to the policyholder and is typically tax-free.

The specific illnesses covered and the terms of the policy can vary between insurance providers, so it's crucial to review the policy documents and understand the conditions under which the payout would be triggered. Generally, critical illness insurance covers major conditions like cancer, heart attack, stroke, organ transplants, and sometimes other serious illnesses depending on the policy.

Once a policyholder is diagnosed with a covered illness and meets the policy's criteria, they can make a claim to their insurance provider. After the claim is approved, the lump-sum payment is typically made, which can be used at the policyholder's discretion, whether it's for medical expenses, mortgage payments, daily living costs, or any other financial obligations.

Does critical illness insurance cover pre-existing conditions?

Critical illness insurance typically doesn't cover pre-existing conditions. These policies are designed to provide coverage for unexpected and severe illnesses that arise after the policy has been purchased, not for conditions that existed before the policy's inception.

Insurance providers usually have a waiting period after the policy begins during which they won't cover any pre-existing conditions. If an individual develops a critical illness that is directly related to a pre-existing condition during this waiting period, it may not be covered.

However, each insurance policy is different, and some providers might offer coverage for certain pre-existing conditions after a waiting period or under specific circumstances. It's crucial to carefully review the policy details, including any exclusions and limitations related to pre-existing conditions, before purchasing critical illness insurance.

Do I need to take a medical exam for critical illness insurance?

Whether a medical exam is required for critical illness insurance can vary based on several factors, including the insurance provider, the specific policy you're applying for, your age, and the coverage amount you're seeking.

In many cases, for smaller coverage amounts of critical health insurance, insurers may offer policies that don't require a medical exam. These policies might involve answering health-related questions on the application, and coverage is based on the information provided. However, for higher coverage amounts or for individuals with certain health conditions or risk factors, insurance companies might request a medical exam as part of the underwriting process.

During a medical exam, an individual may undergo various tests, including blood tests, urine analysis, blood pressure checks, and sometimes additional screenings depending on the insurer's requirements.

What if I make a full recovery?

Even if you make a full recovery, you’re entitled to your critical illness insurance payout as outlined by your policy conditions. In fact, that’s what a critical illness policy is designed for: to give you the financial cushion you need to take care of yourself.

You can use the payout for the thing you need to facilitate your recovery, cover any outstanding bills while you’re off work, or help support your family.

What are the disadvantages of critical illness insurance?

The disadvantages to critical illness insurance are relatively straightforward, namely, there may be a limit to the illnesses and conditions covered depending on the policy you choose. And if you become ill, a critical illness insurance payout will only be issued if you are diagnosed with a critical illness by your doctor that is covered by the policy.

PolicyMe covers the most conditions and illnesses in Canada, with 27 critical illnesses and 17 early-stage conditions (44 total).

Do I have group critical illness insurance coverage through work? 

Most group insurance coverage covers things like health, dental, life and some form of disability or critical illness. But your particular group insurance coverage will depend on what policy your employer has chosen for the team. To find out if you have group critical illness insurance coverage through work, you can reach out to your HR department or employee benefits administrator. They'll have all the details about your specific benefits package and can let you know if this coverage is included. 

Remember, it's always a good idea to stay informed about your insurance coverage!

Do I need critical illness insurance for my mortgage?

Critical illness insurance for your mortgage is not a requirement, but it can offer added peace of mind. It helps cover mortgage payments if you're diagnosed with a serious illness. If you have savings or other insurance policies that can cover your mortgage in case of illness, you may not need it. However, it's important to assess your financial situation and consider your specific needs.

For example, some critical illness insurance policies out there can only be used to pay for your mortgage. To be specific: policies that are called "mortgage critical illness insurance" are intended to cover the mortgage balance, nothing else. So that money can't be used to cover other things while you're ill (i.e. loss of income, childcare, debts, etc.).

What options do I have to pay Premiums? 

Premium options include annual payments by cheque or credit card and monthly payments by pre-authorized bank debits.

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder
About the Author

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