Half of LGBTIQ+ people face discrimination or exclusion in insurance

nic holas the institute of many hiv activist victorian pride lobby insurance discrimination
Image: Nic Holas/Instagram

When she applied for funeral insurance, Sydney transgender woman Peta Friend was told over the phone that she could not be listed as female on the policy.

It was only after a complaint to management that the issue was resolved.

Peta said the experience left her frustrated and wondering why more isn’t being done to train and support customer service staff to better understand the needs of trans customers.

“As a trans woman, when dealing with insurance companies, I shouldn’t just hope for a positive outcome, I should expect and get it every time,” she said.

Meanwhile, for Nic Holas (pictured above), many insurance products are not available because he is living with HIV.

“I’m still denied a variety of insurance products,” the Victorian Pride Lobby committee member said.

“That’s largely because of insurance policies based on outdated science and a view of HIV that’s stuck in the 1990s.”

These experiences with the industry are common among LGBTIQ+ Australians, according to a national survey by the Victorian Pride Lobby.

Almost half of the 500 respondents (47 per cent) reported discrimination or exclusion when applying for insurance.

Of those, rates were higher among trans and gender diverse people, people living with HIV, people with a variation of sex characteristics, and sex workers.

Seventy-six percent of trans and gender diverse people had difficulty self-declaring their gender with insurers.

Insurers asking ‘outdated and offensive’ questions

Thirty-seven percent of respondents also reported intrusive questioning during the insurance claims process.

Some also reported “outdated and offensive” questions about sexuality and sexual activity when applying for insurance.

One said all the options presented to him appeared to exclude men who have sex with men altogether. Others commented that they simply “gave up” after “repeated offensive questions”.

Some respondents even reported insurance companies treated them as higher risk for taking PrEP, even though the medication greatly reduces the risk of contracting HIV.

FPeople living with HIV also reported uncertainty, vague language and inconsistency around which insurers would cover them. Those who are insured also reported uncertainty around their eligibility for claims.

Some respondents reported interactions with customer service staff who were unsure about their company’s rules and policies.

Insurance companies need staff training and clearer policies

The Victorian Pride Lobby has prepared the new report. It was commissioned by the industry’s LGBTIQ+ advocacy body InterInsurance Group.

Pride Lobby Co-Convenor Nevena Spirovska hopes the report is a “positive turning point for Australia’s insurance industry” leading to genuine reform.

The report makes two dozen recommendations on ensuring positive experiences for LGBTIQ+ customers.

Among them are training to staff, particularly service or sales staff, to better engage with LGBTIQ+ customers with “sensitivity, dignity, respect and compassion”.

Insurers should also provide publicly available information to them on whether and how coverage is available to them.

The report also recommends insurers update policies for people with HIV. In particular, companies should review, with a view to removing, exclusions or premium loadings for people managing HIV through treatment.

Insurers should look at updates to HIV policies

Insurance Council of Australia CEO Andrew Hall agreed with calls to update policies for people with HIV.

“I think we need to look at them very carefully because it’s clearly now a chronic disease,” he told ABC News.

“Perhaps some of these areas haven’t been updated for a number of years. I think it’s something that insurers should take a look at.

“People shouldn’t be discriminated against. That’s always a starting point.”

The InterInsurance Group consisting of LGBTQIA+ and ally professionals from over a dozen large Australian insurers.

“The Group is working closely with the Victorian Pride Lobby to better understand LGBTIQA+ customer experiences and make actionable recommendations for change,” a spokesperson said.

For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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1 Comment

  1. Adam
    10 June 2022

    Insurers discriminate against risk. the higher the risk, the higher the premium. Same as old people pay more for income protection.

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