With the implementation of the health insurance exchanges, critical illness coverage can provide a supplement to consumers who are insured under a basic bronze level plan which will cover 60 percent of the costs of essential health benefits.

Individuals on the bronze plan may consider supplemental critical illness plans as an inexpensive opportunity to fill gaps in their coverage. Critical illness is an insurance product that originated in South Africa in the early 1980s. It provides for a lump sum benefit upon the diagnosis of a contractually specified insured condition. The premium and benefit structure resembles life insurance. The insured uses the money any way they want to in order to take care of their needs. Typical insured conditions include but are not limited to cancer, paralysis, kidney failure, coronary artery bypass surgery, major organ transplant, multiple sclerosis, blindness, deafness and the loss of one or more extremities.

Popular optional benefits include return of premium and recurrence benefits on a full or partial basis. Recurrence benefits are usually structured to allow for 50-100 percent of the original coverage to be paid for a recurrence of a covered benefit trigger. A distinction is usually made between the same diagnosis or a different diagnosis and the length of time between occurrences. Also, some benefits such as coverage for cancer in situ (early stage cancer that is still confined) may be excluded or limited to one occurrence under the policy. According to a 2012 Buyer & Claimant Study conducted by the American Association for Critical Illness (AACII), 47 percent of new critical illness insurance claims in 2011 were for illnesses that struck the claimant prior to age 55.

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