Six questions to ask before choosing a cancer policy
1. My mum and sister have had cancer. Will I be able to get cover?
Although there may be an increased risk that you will also get cancer, family history isn't taken into account on medical insurance. It could make a difference on critical illness cover though.
Peter Chadborn from Plan Money explains: “An insurer will look at the type of cancer and when your relatives developed it. If there's an increased risk that you will also develop it, the insurer may exclude it or decline your application.”
2. I had cancer 10 years ago but have been given the all clear. Can I still get cover?
This depends on the cancer and insurers will weigh up the risk of it recurring or leading to another cancer. Insurers take different views on risk so it may be worth approaching several.
3. How much cover do I need?
This depends. With critical illness insurance you might want to consider what you would need to do financially, for example, clear the mortgage or pay for cancer drugs.
On a medical insurance policy, if you're happy to receive some treatment through the NHS then a policy with cancer cover limits may be more suitable, and cheaper, than one with full cover.
4. What happens if I make a claim?
With medical insurance, it depends on whether you have any limits on your cover. If you don't, or you move into a new policy year and any limits are refreshed, you'll be covered as long as you keep paying. With a critical illness insurance policy, once you make a claim your cover ends unless you have a buyback option that allows you to reinstate cover.
5. Can I combine NHS and private treatment?
Yes. Some insurers even encourage you to use the NHS where possible by paying cash back of up to £200 if you do. I have limited cover.
6. What happens if I use it all up?
Insurers have set up specialist care teams that can help you move back into the NHS if your cover runs out.
Private medical insurance
PMI allows you to skip the NHS waiting list and arrange treatment at a time you choose. With most PMI policies, you pay a monthly premium (the older you are, generally the higher premium) and the policy will then pay out, up to specified cover limits and after an agreed excess, for any treatment you might need. Not all conditions are covered by PMI and you get what you pay for: the more cover you want, the higher your premium will be.
Critical illness insurance
This cover pays out a tax-free lump sum if you become seriously ill. All policies should cover seven core conditions: cancer, coronary artery bypass, heart attack, kidney failure, major organ transplant, multiple sclerosis and stroke. You must normally survive at least one month after becoming critically ill, before the policy will pay out. Payouts are determined by premiums and premiums are determined by the severity of your illness, the less severe the lower the premiums.