It's time to enroll in benefits at work. You've selected your major medical, dental and vision plans. That's all you need, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

If your employer offers supplemental health insurance—like accident or critical illness coverage—taking just a few minutes to understand these plans can be invaluable when planning for your financial future.

What is supplemental health insurance?

Supplemental health insurance is designed to provide additional financial benefits that can help cover expenses associated with injuries, illnesses and hospital stays that may or may not be covered by traditional major medical or other health insurance.

Plans may also be called voluntary benefits, accident insurance, cancer policies, critical illness insurance, specified disease insurance or hospital indemnity insurance.


The name fits. These plans are meant to supplement your primary health insurance to help reduce the financial impact of out-of-pocket costs that can add up quickly.

How they work


You experience a covered illness, injury or medical service after your plan's effective date.


You file a claim with the insurance carrier, which can usually be done online or over the phone.


If the claim is approved, you'll typically get paid directly, even if your major medical plan already picked up some or all of the bill.

Types of supplemental health plans you may see:

Critical illness insurance

Critical illness insurance typically provides a lump-sum benefit when you're diagnosed with an illness that's covered under the plan. Standard conditions usually include cancer, heart attack, stroke and major organ failure. Some carriers only cover cancer diagnoses, while others cover hundreds of conditions, including pneumonia, sudden cardiac arrest, diabetes and more.

Hospital indemnity insurance

Hospital indemnity insurance typically pays a fixed dollar amount per day for services and supplies you receive during a hospital stay, up to a maximum number of days each year. Stays in intensive care units (ICUs) and facilities that support mental health or substance abuse recovery may also be covered. Some plans even cover hospitalization from childbirth, which is one of the most common reasons for a hospital stay.

Accident insurance

These plans typically pay preset benefit amounts for injuries and medical services related to an accident. And while it's different from auto insurance, some carriers will cover accidental injuries resulting from a car crash, in addition to other typical injuries from playing sports, falls or other common accidents. Eligible injuries usually include fractures, dislocations, and torn ligaments, and covered medical services may include X-rays, physical therapy, surgeries and more.

With any of these coverages, be sure to read the enrollment materials to ensure you know what's covered and what benefits you can expect.


Why do I need supplemental health insurance?

Who's eligible for supplemental health insurance?

Is supplemental health insurance expensive?

How can I enroll in supplemental health insurance?

Do I need to reelect my supplemental health insurance benefits every year?

Are my supplemental health benefits taxable?

Are my supplemental health benefits HSA-compatible?

Do I have to use my supplemental health insurance benefits on medical expenses?

Can I keep my current supplemental health insurance benefits if I leave my current employer?

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