Good news: You’ve got health insurance (at least, all Americans are required to or pay a penalty).
Bad news: It doesn’t cover everything. Especially if something really bad happens, like a heart attack or stroke.
Yes, a decent major medical plan will cover many of the health-related expenses related to a serious illness. But you’d likely still be left with significant out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and copayments. Medical insurance also doesn’t usually cover other related costs, such as travel to treatment centers, child care during absences or recovery, home modifications or rehabilitation charges. And if you lose income while you’re unable to work, you could have a tough time paying for everyday living expenses including mortgage or rent, utilities and food.
And treating these illnesses is expensive: The American Heart Association says the direct and indirect costs of cardiovascular disease — including health costs and lost productivity — total nearly $317 billion.
Are you at risk? Maybe. The American Heart Association estimates nearly 86 million Americans are living with cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. African-Americans have nearly twice the risk of Caucasians for a first stroke.
So, what can you do? Start with lowering your risk where you can. You know this stuff: lower your cholesterol and blood pressure, be more active, eat more veggies and ditch the smokes. Some research also advises moderate consumption of dark chocolate and red wine, reducing stress and even laughing more.
You also can consider buying critical illness insurance. Never heard of it? You’re not alone.
“Critical illness insurance has been around for decades but still isn’t widely known,” says Lori Hardy, products director at Colonial Life.
Critical illness insurance complements your major medical coverage by helping you pay the often-significant costs of treating and recovering from a serious illness. It pays a lump-sum amount — typically from $5,000 to $100,000 depending on the coverage you buy — if you’re diagnosed with a covered illness. Those illnesses may include heart attack, stroke, end-stage renal failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, major organ failure and sometimes cancer.
“The best place to buy critical illness insurance is at work,” Hardy says. “The cost is more affordable because the coverage is being offered to all employees.”
Critical illness insurance can be less expensive than you expect. For example, a 35-year-old can buy $25,000 worth of individual coverage for less than $15 a month. Married? Expect to pay about $25 a month for two-parent coverage (based on Colonial Life quoted rates, which vary by carrier and state).
Many employers offer critical illness insurance as part of their benefits package on a voluntary basis. That means employees who want this protection select and pay for it themselves, with no cost to the company. If your or your spouse’s employer doesn’t offer critical illness insurance now, you can ask them to add it.