You can beat cancer. You can survive a heart attack. But can you afford to pay for treatment?

Medical science has made some truly amazing progress over the last century. Americans are living longer, healthier lives and surviving diseases that only a couple decades ago would have killed them. That's the good news.

The bad news is that while survival rates for most diseases have jumped, so have the medical costs associated with the treatment. In fact, health care related expenditures in the United States surpassed $2.3 trillion in 2008, a 4.4 percent increase over 2007, more than three times the $714 billion spent in 1990, and over eight times the $253 billion spent in 19801.

Indirect costs of a critical illness may also greatly outweigh the direct medical costs. This leaves many who suffer critical illnesses like heart attacks, cancer or strokes to pay the indirect costs associated with treatment - like deductibles and co-pays, treatment outside a provider network and lost income - on their own. It may be a bigger problem than most people realize. These indirect costs can add up quickly, and unfortunately, your existing insurance coverage may not cover these expenses.

Health insurance pays for things like doctor bills, surgery and traditional treatment, while the insured is responsible for co-pays, deductibles and non-covered procedures. Disability insurance replaces a portion of a person's monthly income - and benefits may not start until after a 30- or 90-day waiting period. And while there are some "specified disease" policies, they pay benefits for the disease specified.

Critical illness insurance fills this protection void and pays cash benefit to the policyholders when they are diagnosed* with one of several covered critical illnesses like cancer, heart attack or stroke. The money is paid with no waiting period and directly to the insured.

Many Americas will have to face a critical illness in their lifetime. According to the American Cancer Society's 2009 Cancer Facts and Figures report, men in the U.S. have about a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer, and for U.S. women, about a 1 in 3 risk. Critical illness insurance helps give them a way to pay for it.

The bottom line is, people may need critical illness insurance. Given the potential financial consequences involved with diagnosis of life-threatening cancer, having a heart attack or suffering kidney failure, you would likely want to protect yourself and your family from that impact.

* As defined by the policy/certificate

1Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary, National Health Statistics Group, National Health Care Expenditures Data, January 2010.