Do I need severe illness cover?

Key takeaways

  • Severe illness cover is becoming increasingly important as we live longer and risk contracting more illnesses. 
  • Disability cover and medical scheme cover are essentials that severe illness cover can complement when you can afford it.  
  • The benefits can be used for any purpose from adapting your lifestyle, to additional medical costs or care costs to rehabilitation or reconstructive surgery. If you need to step back from pursuing your career or job aggressively it can also compensate you for the potential loss of income. 

Severe illness cover is becoming 
more important as we live longer lives and the chances of contracting, and surviving, a severe illness are increasing rapidly. 

You should always get individual financial advice for your own specific financial circumstances, but generally if you have no cover or insufficient cover, you should first try to put in place adequate disability and life cover. 

When you are able to afford it, severe illness or dread disease cover will complement the cover you have and ensure your finances are fully protected from the increasing chances that you will contract and survive a severe illness, or even a serious injury. 

If you have income protection with temporary disability cover in place, your income should be secure should you contract a severe illness and need time off work to recover 

If you belong to a medical scheme, it should cover most of your treatment costs.  

However, the benefits of a severe illness policy can be used to: 

Adapt your lifestyle

A severe health event, such as a stroke, can leave you seriously impaired temporarily or for the rest of your life. You may have to employ a private nurse to assist you with your daily routine at home while you recover and regain your ability to do things independently. 

If your impairment is permanent, you may find you need to introduce changes to your home, particularly your bathroom, or your vehicle. You may have to buy expensive equipment, such as wheelchair, tgive you greater independence.  

Obtain the best medical treatment

Severe illness cover is not intended to replace the role that your medical scheme membership plays in your financial life.  

However, your scheme is likely to cover you for the most cost-effective treatment that is available for all members while your doctor may recommend a specific treatment for you which your scheme is not willing to cover. Or you may wish to try alternative treatments that your scheme does not cover.  

A severe illness policy benefit can be used for these treatments for which your scheme will not reimburse you. 


A severe illness could leave you in need of rehabilitation long after your illness or injury. Your scheme may be obliged to cover rehabilitation after, for example, a stroke, but the benefits may be less than what would be ideal for your full recovery. A severe illness benefit can help you pay for higher levels of rehabilitation. 

Non-medical costs of treatment

If the best treatment for your illness involves consulting a specialist far away from your home, you may incur transport and accommodation costs each time you have an appointment. A severe illness benefit can be used for this. 

Help at home 

A severe illness or the treatment you have for it, such as chemotherapy for cancer, may leave you unable to do the things you normally do for your family, such as driving your children to school and extra mural activities or preparing meals. A severe illness benefit can be used to hire someone to help with such tasks. The valuable role that stay-at-home parents play in looking after children can be insured with a severe illness policy, as there is no need to prove a loss of ability to earn an income as is the case with disability insurance 

Reconstructive surgery

If you want to undergo reconstructive surgery after your treatment, that is not covered by your scheme, or to purchase wig after suffering the hair loss associated with chemotherapyfor example, a severe illness benefit can be used for these costs. 

Finance for future loans

If as a business owner you survive a dread disease, you may struggle to get life and disability cover for a number of years after your illness. This could prevent you from taking out a bigger home loan or a business loan. 

Other costs 

There are many costs you may incur if you or a family member contract a severe illness. For example, if a cancer treatment could affect your ability to have children in the future, you may wish to consider freezing your sperm or eggs 

The emotional toll on you or your family members may make counselling something that could benefit you, but it may not all be covered by your medical scheme.