Best critical illness insurance in 2024: Get free quotes

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Facing a serious illness like a heart attack, stroke, or cancer not only affects your health but also impacts your family. Further, regular health insurance in Canada might not cover all the expenses for life-threatening illnesses, and the treatments can be quite expensive.

That's where critical illness insurance steps in. Giving you a lump sum of money, it covers immediate medical costs and helps you keep up with your lifestyle. If you're new to critical illness insurance, read on!

Our guide explains how critical illness insurance works, what it covers, its pros and cons, and the best plans in Canada. Use our free comparator to quickly compare the best providers, get free personalized quotes, and find the right plan for you right here.

Best Critical Illness Insurance Canada Plans

  1. Sun Life: Express and Comprehensive plans
  2. PolicyMe: Affordable plans with extensive coverage
  3. Manulife: Coverage for 5 or 24 illnesses.
  4. Canada Life: Coverage from $10,000 to $3 million
  5. Humania: Up to 37 conditions covered
  6. Empire Vie: Flexible payment schedules
  7. iA Financial: No medical exam policy options
  8. The Edge Benefits: Automatic benefit increase plans

What is critical illness insurance in Canada?

Many Canadians, especially the young and healthy, can't imagine being diagnosed with cancer or experiencing a heart attack or stroke. But sadly it isn't that infrequent. Further, even with an excellent health insurance plan, a critical illness can be a tremendous financial burden. That's where critical illness insurance becomes important.

Critical illness insurance provides additional coverage for medical emergencies including heart attacks, stroke, or cancer. Because these emergencies or illnesses often incur greater than average medical costs, these policies pay beneficiaries cash to cover where traditional health insurance may fall short.

These policies provide coverage if you experience a medical emergency like:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Coronary bypass

While Canadian healthcare covers many costs, expensive prescriptions, private specialists, and tests are often not included. Critical illness insurance payouts can be used on non-medical expenses related to the ailment, including transportation and family support.

Watch out!

Sadly, critical illnesses are not uncommon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 17.9 million people died from cardiovascular diseases in 2019. This represented 32% of all global deaths! 85% of these deaths were caused by a heart attack or stroke.

What is a critical illness?

A critical illness typically refers to a life-threatening or terminal illness. The most common are cancer, heart disease, and stroke. In high-income countries like Canada, these are consistently among the biggest killers.

Other illnesses considered critical by insurance companies include major organ failure, ALS, Multiple Sclerosis, severe burns, and more.

Good to know

What medical professionals and policy providers consider to be a critical illness is not always the same thing. If you are concerned about a specific illness, it is worth familiarizing yourself with your prospective policy before buying.

How does critical illness insurance work?

A critical illness can be very expensive to treat. Acute illness could require extensive care, specific medicine, or lifestyle changes. A good critical illness insurance policy can help you bridge the financial gap between your savings, your existing health care, and the sum needed for your care.

Should you qualify, the policy will provide a large, tax-free payout to cover care, transportation, and current expenses like your bills and mortgage.

You can use the benefit amount from a critical illness insurance policy to help cover medical bills associated with your diagnosis, including medical treatments not covered by a traditional health plan. Besides a payout, critical illness policies may provide other valuable help. They may cover access to leading medical experts and counseling services to help you deal with your diagnosis.

It can also help cover daily living expenses such as your mortgage, childcare costs, or groceries. If you require transportation to and from medical appointments, you can use your payout to cover those costs.

Critical illness insurance therefore exists so that when you are faced with serious illness, you do not have to stress about making sure bills are paid and your family is taken care of but can instead focus solely on your recovery.

What does critical illness insurance cover?

The list of illnesses that are eligible for critical illness insurance coverage ultimately varies from provider to provider, but some of the most common illnesses that would trigger a payout are:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Life-threatening cancer
  • Coronary bypass
  • Renal failure
  • Paralysis
  • Loss of a limb

But you may ask why not disability insurance? A major advantage of critical illness insurance vs disability insurance is that the money can be used towards a wide variety of expenses. These may include:

  • Expensive medical services, treatments or specialists not covered by another policy.
  • Counselling services
  • Installing lifts and ramps at home
  • Transportation expenses and retrofitting vehicles to make them accessible
  • Daily living expenses with recovering from an illness.

What does a critical illness insurance Canada plan not cover?

Canadian critical illness insurance policies do not generally cover chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, or multiple sclerosis. They also do not cover pre-existing conditions or conditions related to drug or alcohol use.

You will want to make sure you review your policy thoroughly to confirm what is covered and what is not covered.

If you want to compare the coverage of the best critical illness insurance plans in Canada, you can do it right here using our comparator below. Compare plans and get free personalized quotes in no time right here.

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Is critical illness insurance worth it?

It is quite natural to wonder if critical illness insurance is worth it. For many people, the answer is a clear yes.

Canada critical illness insurance provides a financial lifeline if you do not have enough money to cover expenses if you fall ill. Even if you have a substantial financial cushion, do you want to eat away at your hard-earned savings on an illness?

This type of policy will provide a cash payment to help you concentrate on recovery rather than finances after a serious diagnosis. The money provided by the policy can pay for out-of-pocket health care costs related to the critical illness or cover household expenses while the insured recovers.

How much critical illness insurance do I need?

As a rule of thumb, experts in Canada recommend a minimum of 60 months of your take-home salary. This is the average amount of time it takes to recuperate from a serious illness. Using that rule, if your monthly take-home income is $3,000, you would want approximately $180,000 in coverage.

Determining how much critical illness insurance coverage you need depends on how much of a payout you would need if you were diagnosed with a covered illness.

Such expenses could include:

  • Mortgage or rent payments
  • General household expenses like electricity, gas, water, groceries
  • Debts: Do you have loans, car payments, or credit card debt?
  • Childcare or family commitments

Lastly, consider the medical expenses you could incur. You may face an illness that requires clinical trials or services not covered by your health insurance plan. You could, for example, even have to renovate your home to make it wheelchair accessible or hire an in-home nurse.

All of these things will factor into determining how much coverage you will need to make sure that all of your bases are covered.

Watch out!

You will want to consider how much money you would need to provide for your children and family if you could no longer work due to illness. Our critical illness insurance calculator can help you to estimate costs and find the right policy for you. Use our free comparator to get multiple free critical illness insurance quotes in no time.

What are the big 4 critical illnesses?

Some policies allow you to purchase a less-expensive plan limited to 4-conditional coverage. These cover:

  • Life-threatening cancers
  • Heart attacks
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
  • Strokes

These conditions account for an overwhelming majority of claims. Companies offer basic policies that can save you money while offering significant protection against critical illness.

Good to know

Every insurer is different. For example, Blue Cross Critical Illness policies offer a basic 3 illness list covering stroke, heart attack, or cancer.

What qualifies as a critical illness?

Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule for what qualifies as a critical illness. Many providers offer a basic policy to cover 3 or 4 conditions and an enhanced policy covering 25 or more conditions.

Check your insurer or prospective policy carefully. The severity required to qualify for a critical illness and exact definitions and lists of illnesses are out of the scope of this article as they vary too greatly between insurers.

With that said, here is a list of critical illnesses that may appear on your company’s policy:

  • Acquired brain injury due to external trauma
  • Active hepatitis, AIDS, or AIDS-related disease
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • Aortic surgery
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Autism
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Benign brain tumour
  • Blindness
  • Cancer (life-threatening)
  • Coma
  • Coronary angioplasty
  • Coronary artery bypass surgery
  • Coronary surgery (coronary artery bypass)
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Deafness
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy
  • Fulminant viral hepatitis
  • HIV infection
  • Huntington's chorea
  • Kidney failure
  • Liver failure
  • Loss of independence
  • Loss of Limbs
  • Loss of Speech
  • Lou Gehrig's disease - amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Major organ transplant
  • Motor neuron disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Occupational HIV infection
  • Paralysis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Permanent paralysis (paraplegia, quadriplegia)
  • Primary pulmonary
  • Progressive systemic
  • Pulmonary fibrosis
  • Severe burns
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)
  • Transient ischemic attack

Good to know

As of the time of publication, our team is unaware of any policy that covers every one of these conditions, but each one appears at least once on a major critical illness insurance policy.

What are the pros and cons of critical illness insurance?

Insurance plans are there for protection when the unexpected happens. When it comes to this policy, the pros outweigh the cons. Gain peace of mind and financial flexibility should the worst happen. Here is a quick look at the pros and cons:


  • Peace of mind. If you don’t have substantial savings, critical illness coverage is reassuring. The payout can be a source of income for you and your family.
  • Premiums are typically affordable
  • Spend the payout however you like. You will get a lump sum payout.
  • Care for dependants: Critical illness coverage can help you continue supporting children or other family members who rely on you financially.


  • Not all illnesses are covered. Make sure you check exactly what illnesses are covered by your insurance provider. Even if your illness is listed, whether it is covered will depend on its severity.
  • Coverage and prices vary. Besides differences from provider to provider, your health, age, smoking status, and lifestyle can significantly impact the premium.
  • Coverage may end after the policyholder reaches a specific age.

How much is critical illness insurance?

Your critical illness insurance rate will entirely depend on circumstances such as age, health status, and lifestyle. The average monthly premium for $25,000 in critical illness insurance coverage depending on age group typically is:

AgePrice per month
Under 25
51 to 55
56 to 60
61 to 65
Critical Illness Insurance Canada premiums

Premiums and coverage might change based on multiple other factors as well. For instance, a TD Critical Illness Insurance Ontario plan might be different from a BC plan. There are also group critical illness insurance plans for businesses that might have different premiums.

It is important to get individual quotes from multiple providers before deciding on a policy. While it may seem like a time-consuming process, we've made it simple for you. Just use our free comparator below to compare the best critical illness insurance quotes from Canada's top providers right here.

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What is the best critical illness insurance Canada plan?

Which critical illness insurance provider and policy is best for you depends on your situation, your risk tolerance, your age, your health, and your ability to pay.

Here are some of the best critical illness insurance providers in Canada:

Best Canada Critical Illness Insurance PlansPlan Key FeaturesGet a free quote now
Sun Life Critical Illness Insurance
1. Express and Comprehensive plans.
2. Covers up to 7 or 26 illnesses.
3. Flexible terms and add-ons.
4. Adult and child coverage options.
5. Maximum coverage up to $3 million.
Get a free quote from Sun Life
Manulife Critical Illness Insurance
1. CoverMe, Lifecheque, Synergy plans.
2. Coverage for 5 or 24 illnesses.
3. Online quotes and advisor support.
4. Combines life, disability, and CI insurance.
5. Up to $2 million in benefits.
Get a free quote from Manulife
Canada Life Critical Illness Insurance
1. LifeAdvance customizable plan.
2. Covers 25 illnesses.
3. Coverage from $10,000 to $3 million.
4. 10-year and 20-year terms.
5. Return of Premium options.
Get a free quote from Canada Life
Humania Critical Illness Insurance
1. Up to 37 conditions covered.
2. Basic and Enhanced plans.
3. Child Rider and digital features.
4. Partial payouts available.
5. Up to $1 million coverage.
Get a free quote from Humania
Empire Vie Critical Illness Insurance
1. CI Protect and Protect Plus plans.
2. Coverage for 4 or 25 illnesses.
3. Renewable term plans to age 75.
4. Flexible payment schedules.
5. Customizable with additional riders.
Get a free quote from Empire Vie
PolicyMe Critical Illness Insurance
1. Easy online application process.
2. Covers up to 44 conditions.
3. Get covered for $10K to $1 million, from 10 to 30 years
4. Lump-sum tax-free payout
5. Extensive coverage for early-stage cancers and cardiac illnesses
Get a free quote from PolicyMe
iA Financial Critical Illness Insurance
1. Transition plans for 25 or 4 illnesses.
2. Cancer Guard and Kiddy Plan.
3. Up to $3 million coverage.
4. No medical exam policy options.
5. Term and permanent policies.
Get a free quote from iA Financial
The Edge Benefits Critical Illness Insurance
1. Tiered coverage up to $50,000.
2. Guaranteed issue.
3. Second Event Benefit.
4. Automatic benefit increase.
5. Child critical illness coverage.
Get a free quote from Edge Benefits
Best critical insurance Canada plans

What are the FAQs on critical illness insurance?

What is children’s critical illness insurance?

Children’s critical illness insurance allows you to maintain an income if you need to take a leave of absence from work to focus on your child’s care and recovery.

Much like critical illness insurance for adults, it will also pay for additional expenses, including treatments and prescription drugs not covered by a provincial healthcare plan as well as travel expenses if you have to travel to seek healthcare for your child.

What is the difference between critical illness vs disability insurance?

You now know that critical illness coverage can be used to cover your bills and general living expenses, so you may be wondering what is the difference between critical illness insurance and disability insurance. Take a look at the table below for the key differences between the two policies.

AboutCritical Illness InsuranceDisability Insurance
Payout type and frequency?
A tax-free, one-time payoutMonthly income replacement
When do you receive the payment?
Upon diagnosis of a covered conditionIf you are unable to work due to an illness or injury
Is there a waiting period?
No waiting period in most casesA waiting period generally applies
How long are you covered?
May purchase coverage for lifeEnds at 65
What can you use them for?
A large sum that you can use for what you want like paying medical expenses, mortgage and pay off debtMonthly expenses
Disability vs critical illness insurance

What is the difference between life insurance and critical illness insurance?

The biggest difference between life and critical illness insurance coverages is that the latter will pay out while you are alive. It helps you get better and not have to worry about finances. On the other hand, life insurance will pay out to your beneficiaries after you die. It helps to pay off outstanding debt, cover funeral expenses, and leave your family with something.

What is the return of premium benefits for critical illness insurance?

You can add on a return of premium rider on some critical illness insurance policies. If you add a return of premium rider, your policy works just like a normal policy - you pay the monthly premiums and the policy coverage continues. If a covered critical illness occurs, the policy pays out.

However, with a return of premium rider, an insurance provider pays back a portion or all of the premiums under certain circumstances, such as if no claims have been made when the policy expires or the policyholder dies.

What is mortgage critical illness insurance?

If a covered condition occurs when Mortgage Critical Illness Insurance coverage is in place, one of your largest monthly expenses could be covered which would free up money to use for health-related expenses.

Canadian residents between 18 and 55 years of age are eligible to apply for Mortgage Critical Illness Insurance with the financial institution with which they have a mortgage.

See our critical illness insurance guides

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Alexandre Desoutter

Alexandre Desoutter has been working as editor-in-chief and head of press relations at HelloSafe since June 2020. A graduate of Sciences Po Grenoble, he worked as a journalist for several years in French media, and continues to collaborate as a as a contributor to several publications.