CI 101 - what you need to know about critical illness coverage

Find out what is critical illness coverage and why it is so important.

What is a Critical Illness (CI) plan?

Also known as "dread disease cover", a CI plan provides you with a sum of money when you're diagnosed with any of the critical illnesses covered in the plan. 

What does it cover?

The Life Insurance Association has a standardised list of 37 common critical illnesses, however, CI plans offered by the various insurers cover different illnesses. Generally, all cover more than 30 critical illnesses, including cancer, stroke, kidney failure and dementia.

How critical is it? 

With Singaporeans living longer and higher survival rates for patients diagnosed with critical illnesses such as cancer1 as well as heart attack and stroke, individuals are spending more years living with critical illness. On average, eight out of 82 years are spent in poor health2.

A CI plan cushions the financial impact of a critical illness and helps tide you over when you're unable to work as a result of it. This means you won't have to dip into your savings for the myriad expenses you may incur during a critical illness, from the cost of getting a second opinion for your medical condition to daily expenses and caregiver costs.

Like all insurance plans, it helps to manage risks in life. Critical illness is a growing risk in Singapore, with 59 in 100 people dying from cancer or cardiovascular disease3. It also enables you to protect your quality of life and dreams for the future, so you needn't worry about giving up the comforts of your current lifestyle, or having less money for your children’s education or your retirement.

According to the latest Protection Gap Study, a working adult should have a critical illness protection coverage of approximately $316,603, however, Singaporeans have only 20% of what’s needed2.

How is a CI plan different from an Integrated Shield plan?

Some people mistake CI plans for Integrated Shield plans, or assume that their existing insurance plans already offer Critical Illness protection. However, the two are separate plans and serve very different functions.

While an Integrated Shield plan covers most of your hospitalisation bills, a CI plan gives you a lump-sum pay-out that you can use for everything that a Shield plan doesn’t cover – and there are absolutely no restrictions on how you can use the payout.

What types of covers are there?

Integrated Shield plan CI plan

- Pre & post-hospital coverage

- Hospital treatment & ward charges

- Selected outpatient treatment (i.e. dialysis & chemotherapy)

- Hospitalisation costs that exceed the amount claimable from Shield plan

- Co-payments for your Shield plan

- Alternative treatments

- Rehabilitation/therapy

- Mobility aids, supplements

- Long-term care

- Caregiver costs

- Family expenses (e.g. food, transport, childcare, etc)

- Bills

- Housing & car loans

- Replacement income

Severe stage vs multi stage: In the past, most insurers offered plans that only covered severe stage critical illness. These days, many plans also cover early and intermediate stage critical illness. Early detection and treatment of critical illness has been closely linked to higher survival rates.

Single payout vs multiple payouts: Some plans allow for only one claim, before the plan is terminated. This means that should you try to get another single payout CI plan, you’ll either not be covered or have limited coverage due to exclusion of certain illnesses .

A multiple-payout plan like Aviva's My MultiPay Critical Illness Plan4 provides multiple payouts for different severities of critical illnesses and when specified critical illnesses recur, up to a total of 900% of the Sum Assured. It covers 132 conditions across various stages of critical illnesses and the recurrence of 6 specified critical illnesses including re-diagnosed major cancer, recurrent heart attack of specified severity and recurrent stroke with permanent neurological deficit.

Standalone vs rider: CI plans can come in the form of standalone plans or as riders attached to whole/term life plans.

What happens when you make a claim?

You’ll get a lump sum payout (the amount will be based on your chosen sum assured) upon diagnosis of any covered CI. Unlike a hospitalisation or personal accident plan, you don’t have to undergo treatment at a hospital before payout is made. And you can use the money immediately, be it for a second medical opinion or as payment for hiring a caregiver for your kids before your treatment begins. 

 What you need to know before getting a CI plan

  • Get adequate protection – as a guide, aim for a coverage of about 3.9 times your annual income2
  •  Get it when you're healthy – once you're diagnosed with a critical illness, most insurers won't cover you
  •  Get it while you're young – premiums get higher as you get older and have higher risk for critical illness
  • Do your research – not all policies cover the same illnesses, so look for one with coverage best suited for your health requirements
  • Check if there's a window period – with some plans, the benefits only become effective after a specific time following diagnosis of a critical illness
  • Check if you still have to pay premiums upon diagnosis of critical illness – some plans offer a waiver of future premiums after diagnosis of severe stage critical illness, freeing you from additional financial burden
  • Look out for additional benefits – Aviva’s My MultiPay CriticaI Illness Plan IV, for instance, provides additional benefits such as Benign and Borderline Malignant Tumour Benefit, Intensive Care Benefit, Special Benefit as well as death coverage.

Did you know?

Every day in Singapore,

  • close to 39 people are diagnosed with cancer        
  • 26 suffer a stroke6
  • 4.4 people suffer kidney failure7


  • About 1 in 10 people will get multiple cancers in their lifetime4
  • 58% of Singaporeans aged 50 to 70 suffer at least one chronic condition and 10% have more than two conditions8
  • When critical illness strikes, you'll typically be unable to perform one Activity of Daily Living (ADL)
  • 14% of stroke victims are unable to perform at least three ADLs i.e. washing, dressing, feeding, toileting, mobility, transferring8

But things are improving…

Source: The Straits Times1

  • Survival rates following a heart attack have improved globally in recent years thanks to modern medicine. The mortality rate in patients with heart attack is 10%. This means there is a 90% survival rate for heart attack9
  • 64% decline in mortality rates for stroke in adults aged 15-59 from 1989 to 200910


1More in Singapore getting cancer, but survival also up, The Straits Times, 27 November 2015

2Working adults have inadequate cover if critical illness strikes, says study, The Straits Times (26 April 2018)

3Principal Causes of Death 2016, Ministry of Health 

4 Policy Terms and Conditions apply. Please refer to the Product Brochure for more information.

5Singapore Cancer Registry Annual Registry Report 2015, National Registry of Diseases Office, 19 June 2017. 


7Drop in kidney failure cases in Singapore, The Straits Times, 20 January 2018. 

8Centre for Research on the Economics of Ageing (CREA)

9National Heart Centre Singapore

10Trends in Adult Mortality in Singapore, Ministry of Health

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