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Terminal vs Critical Illness: What Is The Difference
Terminal vs Critical Illness: What Is The Difference
26 Jun 2020

Is there a difference between terminal and critical illness? Will your life insurer be able to cover you should you place a claim? Here is what you need to know.

What is critical illness

Critical illnesses are illnesses that are life threatening. It can also lead to you being hospitalised. However, with the correct medical care, critical illnesses can be controlled or even cured, however they do come with a range of drawbacks that can be life threatening and financially heavy on your pocket. Some of the critical illnesses that are well-known are:


Heart disease


Kidney transplant


Organ transplants

The chances of you surviving a critical illness are possible with the correct medical care. However, people who do not have the right financial protection such as medical aid and GAP cover could find themselves financially exposed as medical care can be expensive. Having a life insurance policy can cover you for a critical illness so that you can handle the various medical costs that come with it. 

What is terminal illness

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness means that the person is suffering from a life threatening disease that sees little to no survival rate. Once a person has been diagnosed with a terminal illness it usually means that they have 6 - 12 months to live. At this point, there is very little that can be done in terms of treatment except slowing the process or easing the person's suffering.

Terminal illnesses are quite tricky, with medical aids usually not being able to cover the full expenses that come with being diagnosed, leaving you to foot a hefty bill.

Will your insurer cover you for both?

Yes. It is possible to be covered for both terminal and critical illness, but it is important to know which cover is the right one. Having life insurance in place will cover you for both illnesses and still leave you with money left over to take care of your loved ones should you pass on.

Once a person has been diagnosed by a medical professional as having a terminal illness – meaning you have 6-12 months left to live, they have the option of choosing to have 50% or 100% of their policy paid out.

But it is important to keep in mind that should you choose to have 100% of the claim paid out and you survive, you will have to take out a new policy and start again.

The difference between dread disease cover and life insurance

There is also dread disease cover which is different from life insurance that is designed for critical illnesses. Keep in mind that some life insurers will not approve a claim for a critical illness, so you will need dread disease cover to cover you for this. The only difference between the two is that you do not have the choice of choosing between 50% or 100% of the cover. Instead, you will be paid out a lump sum to help you manage the various expenses.

Remember to speak to your insurer to see what cover will be best suitable for your needs. You can also use our life insurance calculator to know how much cover you will need to adequately cover you.


Need more information on MiWayLife? Read about our life insurance product, or get a life insurance quote in 30 seconds. Alternatively, call us on 0860 64 54 33 .
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Terms and conditions apply. Eligibility, cover and benefits are determined on individual risk profile. MiWayLife is an authorised FSP (No. 45741) and its product offering is underwritten by Sanlam Life Insurance Limited, a registered long-term insurer. MiWayLife is a division of Sanlam Life Insurance Limited - Reg No. 1998/021121/06