Critical-illness medical insurance is designed to help people who have a life-threatening condition cope with lack of income and the extra costs arising from their ill health. Claims against this insurance give the patient a lump sum within 30 days of diagnosis of certain potentially fatal diseases, such as cancer or heart attack. As of 1997, critical-illness insurance could be bought in Britain, South Africa, Australia and Canada, and similar types of insurance were available in the USA and Japan.
Critical-illness insurance has been designed for, and appeals to, specific types of customers. For example, in Canada, it covers predominantly female illnesses such as breast cancer, and is sold to women.