80% of insurance companies failing gay men

PinkNews Staff Writer April 11, 2008
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New research has found that many leading insurance providers in the UK are still sending gay men for unnecessary HIV tests.

In a survey insurance company staff were all asked to provide their company’s limit at which an applicant would be sent for an HIV test.

Two companies, Royal Liver and Bright Grey, were praised for their industry-beating limit of £1,000,000 of cover without HIV testing for gay men within a civil partnership.

However, 80% of frontline customer service staff of insurance companies covered in the study by gay financial advisers Compass gave incorrect information around gay men and insurance.

Legal General and Scottish Equitable were highlighted as the worst offenders, since they both have the lowest limits at which they would ask for testing.

“It’s remarkable that so many insurance companies, apparently trained to look after Independent Financial Advisers and customer applications, are falling down when looking after gay clients,” said Chris Morgan, Managing Director of Compass and a member of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) Working Party on HIV.

“Although no direct instances of homophobia were uncovered, it is disappointing that the gay and lesbian community are such a low priority in the insurers eyes.

“Following the introduction of the Goods and Services Act in 2007, most insurance companies mended their ways, but it seems that some are still dragging their feet.

“Our survey findings will be presented to the industry watchdog.”

The second version of the ABI Gay Men’s Insurance Guide, including new paragraphs for Civil Partnership couples, will soon be freely available through the ABI website, or by phoning Compass Independent Financial Advisers on 0800 783 8629.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations, which became law last year, contain an opt-out for insurance companies that allows them to continue to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The SORs protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people from discrimination when accessing goods and services.

Regulation 27 provides an exception to the SORs where a person is treated less favourably on grounds of his sexual orientation in relation to an annuity, or life insurance policy, or similar matter.

The small print of the regulations, published in March 2007, make clear that insurance companies will have to argue to retain this exemption after 2008.

There is a similar provision in gender and disability equality legislation that allows insurers to use actuarial data to decide on which premiums to charge.

A spokeswoman for the government department responsible for the SORs, Communities and Local Government, pointed to the code of practice operated by the Association of British Insurers.

Over 95% of the insurance industry abide by the ABI code.

“According to the code insurers should not ask about someone’s sexual orientation or negative HIV tests as a factor in considering insurance, but they might ask about lifestyles or behaviour, regardless of sexual orientation, that might put an individual at greater risk,” said the spokeswoman told last year.

The burden of proof that Regulation 27 should be retained will fall on the insurance industry.

“Insurance companies will have to comply with the regulations, so prejudice against gay people will not be a reason for charging someone an extortionate premium for their mortgage insurance,” explained the DCLG spokeswoman.

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