It is 36 years since the pioneering heart surgeon; Dr Marius Barnard first came up with the idea of Critical Illness Cover. Marius was a cardiac surgeon and a member of the team headed by his brother Christiaan Barnard that performed the world’s first human-to-human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, on 3 December 1967.

Several years after this, Dr Barnard was touched by the financial poverty of a woman dying of cancer who was still struggling into work each day to provide for her family. He approached a South African insurer to come up with a policy that pays out on diagnosis of a severe or critical illness. His stated aim in the beginning was “the creation and development of accessible and affordable critical illness cover that delivers on the promise of insurance, providing benefits and support to vulnerable policyholders, when they need it most.

Although a gifted surgeon and entrepreneur, his marketing skills were somewhat limited because when originally conceived, he called it Dread Disease Cover. The title sent a shiver down many peoples’ backs and it wasn’t long before the Insurers began changing the name to Serious Illness Cover initially then to Specified Illness Cover. Finally, Critical Illness Cover is that name that has now gained widest acceptance and is most commonly used.

Critical Illness cover is a policy which pays out on diagnosis of serious and critical illnesses to help people meet their daily living expenses. This type of policy is important to help safeguard the financial welfare of families, when a family member is struck down with a critical illness such as cancer, heart attack or stroke.

Over the past 35 years the policies have been amended and improved. Improvements in medical science and diagnostics have increased rates of diagnoses and earlier treatment has facilitated better outcomes for patients. Many new conditions have been added to policies such as CJD.

However,  the top four illnesses that occur in claims every are Cancer [59%], Heart Attack [14%], Stroke [6%] and Multiple Sclerosis [3%].