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
Questions of Cash: What are my rights if my leak is caused by neighbours’ roofs?
Pension mortgages: 'The advice I was given was wrong and now I face losing my home'
Gold-plated pensions – the key to retirement freedom?
The 10 Best money-saving sites
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
- 1 President of Argentina adopts Jewish godson to 'stop him turning into a werewolf'
- 2 Doctors remove 80 teeth from boy's jaw
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations
- 5 Sir Winston Churchill’s family begged him not to convert to Islam, letter reveals
Millions of Britons struggling to feed themselves and facing malnourishment
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Nigel Farage: Ukip leader named 'Briton of the year' by The Times
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
iJobs Money & Business
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...
Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
Day In a Page
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 deceptively spacious, beautifully presented Georgian home with 3000sq ft of living space and five reception rooms
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
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens