Insurers criticised for attitude to gay men -
Homosexuals still face discrimination when applying for protection policies, says Kate Hughes
Saturday 19 April 2008
Discriminating against people based on their sexuality should be a thing of the past. When it comes to personal protection like life insurance and critical illness, nobody should be able to demand sensitive information from homosexuals that they would not ask of heterosexuals. But in reality, an argument is raging over continued discrimination of gay men and their risk of HIV/Aids.
A report by Compass, an independent financial adviser for the gay community, has found that confusion, mixed messages and unreasonable prejudice about HIV/Aids is still frequently experienced by gay men applying for protection policies.
Until recently, it was standard practice for insurers to ask gay men who wanted life insurance or a critical illness protection policy about the number of sexual partners they have had, and whether they had safe sex or not.
In 2005, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) produced strict guidelines on what questions could be asked of applicants to assess the risks to their health. This means that no one can be asked about their sexuality or their personal behaviour directly. All applicants will now be asked generic questions like: "Have you ever tested positive for HIV, Hepatitis B or C, or are you awaiting the results of such a test?"
However, despite claims from insurers that they have embraced these guidelines, research suggests that gay men still find they are more likely to be subjected to unnecessary HIV tests than heterosexual applicants. According to Compass, more than 80 per cent of customer service staff at the major insurance companies still give incorrect information, often resulting in the demand for HIV tests when dealing with applications.
The stage at which insurers demand HIV tests seems to vary dramatically, and confusion among staff means that some gay men are still having to take a test to assure a small amount.
Some companies will not ask for an HIV test until the sum assured reaches £1m. Royal Liver, for example, has a limit of £1m of cover without HIV testing both for gay men within a Civil Partnership and married couples. But the report highlights failings by Legal & General and AEGON Scottish Equitable staff in particular, for imposing HIV tests on applicants for very low sums assured. Compass found evidence to suggest that even gay men aged 66-70 in civil partnerships had to go through the test in order to get cover when applying for a sum as low as £25,000.
Bright Grey's official stance is that they will not demand an HIV test for anyone on a sum assured less than £1m. The research has found that this is true of married couples but for civil partnerships the limit is reduced to about £250,000, contravening the discrimination laws. "It's remarkable that so many insurance companies are failing when looking after gay clients," says Chris Morgan of Compass.
Reality on the ground
"This shouldn't happen," says Jonathan French of the ABI. "There may be isolated occasions when employees get it wrong, but HIV testing is nothing to do with being gay or straight."
Legal & General refutes the suggestion that they discriminate against gay people. Russ Whitworth, director of claims and underwriting, says: "Legal & General fully supports, and is compliant with, the ABI Statement of Best Practice on HIV and Insurance. HIV risk is assessed based on exposure to the risk of HIV infection. We take no account of whether a male customer is gay; we do not ask customers if they are gay at any time. Our policy is to ask an applicant to take an HIV test for high sums assured for life cover – for single males, this is more than £300,000 and for married males, males in a civil partnership and all females, this is more than £1m."
Aegon Scottish Equitable also says their HIV testing limits are in line with the ABI's guidelines, but added: "We are disappointed by the findings of this survey and will be providing additional training to our customer service staff in order that they are familiar with our HIV testing limits and underwriting philosophy in order that this type of incident does not happen in future."
"It is against industry standards to even ask someone if they are gay as part of a protection application," says Roger Edwards of Bright Grey. "We now have a lot of work going on inside the company to alter the limits."
But he did warn that single men, regardless of sexuality, applying for insurance will still be put through an HIV test at lower cut off points than anyone else. "Statistically, you are more likely to be at risk of HIV/Aids as a single man," says Edwards.
The irony of all this is that according to figures from the Health Protection Agency (HPA), gay men are no longer the community at greatest risk of being exposed to HIV/Aids. In 2006, the last time the statistics were compiled, about 2 per cent of the male gay community were living with HIV/Aids. But, according to the HPA, almost half of all new diagnoses in the UK in 2006 were among those of Black African origin – predominantly heterosexual. About 3 per cent of this community in England is now living with HIV/Aids.
Morgan warns that if gay men or any minority group feel they are being discriminated against, they may turn their back on protection altogether. If a grey area continues to hang over the issue, not having financial protection means that those left behind could face crippling financial burdens if the worst happens, just when that money is needed the most.
WHAT INSURERS CAN AND CAN'T ASK
Questions an insurer can ask:
*Assessing HIV risk – a general question for all applicants about potential HIV exposure
*Negative and Positive HIV Tests – applicants will not be penalised for negative results
*Sexually Transmitted Infections
What an insurer can't ask:
*Sexuality: Insurers may not ask you any questions about your sexuality. Even if you inadvertently disclose this information, it will not be used in assessing your application. Instead, the HIV risk questions ask about your personal behaviour
*HIV risk: GPs are required to inform insurers if an applicant is HIV positive or is awaiting an HIV test result. They will not notify insurers of negative tests that have been taken. GPs are only contacted by insurers in a minority of cases and, even then, only with your consent. Typically this is done to get more information on a medical condition you have disclosed
*Sexually Transmitted Diseases: GPs are required to disclose sexually transmitted infections which have long-term health implications. GPs are not allowed to tell insurers if you have had a single instance of a minor sexually transmitted disease
*Civil partnerships: Because there is no data on the sexual behaviour of couples in a civil partnership, some life insurance companies are still treating these couples as single people for assessing HIV risk. Others are treating them in the same way as heterosexual married couples
Source – Association of British Insurers Consumer Guide for gay men on HIV and Life Insurance
Debt in Britain: Numbers seeking help on how to cope with mounting bills goes up by more than half in three years
Bargain Hunter: BT improves its mobile reception with 'incredibly competitive' deals
Questions of Cash: Why was my case ignored by My Civil Service Pension?
Offset your mortgage and save thousands
Simon Read: 'It went below the radar but you could be eligible for a tax break on your savings'
- 1 Is this bridge haunted by the ghost of nu rave?
- 2 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 3 The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
- 4 Scientists have discovered a simple way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories
- 5 Zayn Malik quits One Direction: Hundreds of workers request compassionate leave following band member's exit
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
Revealed: Putin's army of pro-Kremlin bloggers
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
iJobs Money & Business
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: To provide a prompt, friendly and efficient se...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: You will be the first point of contact for all...
£18000 - £24000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: HR, Payroll & Benefits Of...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...
Day In a Page
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station