If you get sick, injured or end up in the hospital, ancillary benefits can help you cover the cost of your care — or help with everyday life expenses until you’re better.
Supplemental insurance is a plan that you can buy to supplement your existing health insurance.
That’s because supplemental insurance — a.k.a. ancillary or voluntary benefits — helps you cover out-of-pocket costs when you get sick or injured. It doesn’t add any actual coverage. It just helps you take care of the costs.
There are different kinds of supplemental insurance. Some insurance companies lump different products together. But to give you an idea of what we’re talking about, we’ll highlight three major types of supplemental benefits: accident, critical illness, and hospital indemnity.
Accident insurance covers unexpected mishaps, like when your toddler smashes his fingers in the car door and needs stitches. Supplemental accident policies pay out a lump sum for different situations. The doctor visit itself might count as one benefit, for example. You may also have a benefit for the type of care you get, like stitches or an X-ray. This is a good option for active people or families with small (read: accident-prone) children.
Like accident insurance, critical illness coverage pays you a lump sum if you get diagnosed with a critical illness. What counts as “critical”? Things like cancer, a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure typically fall under this category. But you may also have a benefit for less common problems, like a major organ transplant. Supplemental policies differ, as do the payout amounts.
Hospital indemnity plans pay a lump sum directly to you for a hospital stay, usually a per-day amount. Some policies might also give you a cash benefit for treatments while you’re there. It depends on the plan. If you know anything about healthcare, it’s this: Hospitals ain’t cheap. Hospital indemnity coverage can buffer those costs.
Supplemental insurance is a good plan, but it’s not insurance.
We know. We keep calling it “insurance,” but it’s not really — not in the way you think of traditional insurance, anyway.
With health insurance, you see a doctor, file a claim, and your health insurance company pays its share (and you pay yours). That’s not how it works with supplemental insurance.
Ancillary benefits pay you a lump sum for the benefits outlined in the plan.
How much you get paid and what counts as a covered benefit depend on your policy. You might get $10,000 if you get diagnosed with cancer, for example. You can use that money to pay for treatments or take an Alaskan cruise. That’s up to you.
(We do recommend stashing that cash away for medical expenses, though, especially if your budget is tight.)
Before you get excited about the prospect of free-flowing cash for all your tumbles down the stairs, know that there are limits to supplemental benefits.
- Your plan will tell you exactly what does and doesn’t count as a benefit. And there might be exclusions, like injuries from extreme sports or dangerous activities (e.g. hunting).
- You’ll usually need documented evidence for a payout. In other words, you’ll need to see a doctor and get a diagnosis before the insurance company cuts you a check.
- Insurance companies can use medical underwriting for supplemental benefits. That means they can look at your medical history to approve coverage and/or set rates. If you have a pre-existing condition, you might not be able to get a supplemental plan or you may have to settle for a policy that doesn’t offer high payouts.
Supplemental insurance isn’t like regular health insurance. It’s an extra policy that you pair with major medical or short term medical insurance. If you get sick, injured, or end up in the hospital, ancillary benefits can help you cover the cost of your care — or help with everyday living expenses until you’re better.
Schedule your one-on-one insurance consultation with a coverage team member, privately and at your convenience.