What is a life insurance critical or chronic illness rider?

A critical or chronic illness rider allows you to tap into your life insurance policy's death benefit while you're still living if you're diagnosed with a qualifying health issue. Critical illnesses are typically specified illnesses and health conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes, while chronic illness is defined as the inability to perform a certain number of daily living activities. The safety net from these riders can make the situation more manageable, and one is sometimes included on a life insurance policy for no extra cost. Critical and chronic illness riders are types of accelerated death benefit riders.

4 min to read

Explore Progressive's editorial standards for Answers articles to find out why you can trust the insurance information you find here.

How does a critical or chronic illness rider work?

If you have a critical or chronic illness rider and you receive a diagnosis that meets the rider's requirements, you'll be able to access some or all of your death benefit before you pass away. These riders must be added to your life insurance policy before you develop a qualifying condition. To activate the rider, you'll likely need proof from your doctor that you've developed a qualifying critical illness or chronic condition. Once your critical or chronic illness rider is activated, you'll receive a payout from your insurance company, usually as a lump sum. It may also be possible to have it paid out periodically over time, and the payout can be used for anything.

Remember, the payment you receive through a critical or chronic illness rider will come from your death benefit, so when you die, the payout available to your beneficiaries will be reduced. Check your policy carefully to understand how activating the chronic illness rider will affect your beneficiaries' payout.

What is defined as a chronic condition for life insurance purposes?

In insurance terms, a chronic illness is usually defined as a permanent condition that inhibits you from performing at least two of the six basic "activities of daily living":

  • Ambulating
  • Continence
  • Feeding
  • Dressing
  • Personal hygiene
  • Toileting

If your life insurance policy has a chronic illness rider, you'll usually need to be unable to perform two of the activities of daily living in order for the rider to be activated. This can generally be the result of any condition, including one caused by an accidental injury.

What is a critical illness?

For critical illness riders, life insurers typically have a list of specific illnesses and health conditions you must develop in order for the rider to be activated. It differs by insurer, but critical illnesses might include heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and more.

Can I get life insurance if I already have a chronic or critical illness?

If you've been diagnosed with a chronic or critical illness, you can likely still qualify for life insurance, including no-medical-exam policies for more serious conditions. Life insurance policies that don't require a medical exam may cost significantly more, though. If you were recently diagnosed, you may choose to wait until your condition is under control and then apply for a traditional life insurance policy. Someone who's responsibly managing an ongoing condition may qualify for more affordable life insurance than someone who's just been diagnosed or opts out of the medical exam.

What's the difference between a critical or chronic illness rider and a long-term care rider?

Critical or chronic illness riders and long-term care (LTC) riders might have different qualifying conditions, though there will likely be some overlap. LTC riders typically require you to have specific long-term care needs while critical or chronic illness riders might not. Long-term care riders might require the payout to be used specifically for long-term care, while critical and chronic illness rider payouts can usually be used however you want.

Critical and chronic illness riders, as well as long-term care riders, are technically types of accelerated death benefit riders, also known as living benefit riders, which allow you to access your death benefit if you're diagnosed with a qualifying critical, chronic, or terminal illness. Critical and chronic illness riders typically don't include terminal illnesses as qualifying conditions like a long-term care rider might.

Life insurers may or may not charge you to add any of these health-related riders to your policy.

Is a critical or chronic illness rider worth it?

A critical or chronic illness rider can provide a safety net later in life in case you need to manage a qualifying condition. Find out which riders your insurer might include for no extra cost. For example, if a chronic illness rider costs extra, compare its price and requirements with the critical illness rider to determine which is the right living benefit rider for you.

How to get life insurance through Progressive

Get a life insurance quote online in just minutes. You'll answer some questions and choose your coverage amount, term length, and other policy details. You can also call 1-866-912-2477 to speak with a licensed representative from Progressive Life by eFinancial who can help you find the right policy for you.

Get a free life insurance quote online in minutes

Learn more about life insurance policies.

Please note: The above is meant as general information to help you understand the different aspects of insurance. Read our editorial standards for Answers content. This information is not an insurance policy, does not refer to any specific insurance policy, and does not modify any provisions, limitations, or exclusions expressly stated in any insurance policy. Descriptions of all coverages and other features are necessarily brief; in order to fully understand the coverages and other features of a specific insurance policy, we encourage you to read the applicable policy and/or speak to an insurance representative. Coverages and other features vary between insurers, vary by state, and are not available in all states. Whether an accident or other loss is covered is subject to the terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in the claim. References to average or typical premiums, amounts of losses, deductibles, costs of coverages/repair, etc., are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. We are not responsible for the content of any third-party sites linked from this page.