Insurers are expected to deal fairly with all customers, including those with disabilities
Mr Wesley Loh (“Govt help needed to tackle insurer bias against autism”, 17 September 2020) and Mr Daryl Yang (“Laws needed to end insurance bias”, 19 September 2020) raised concerns that persons with disabilities face discrimination by insurers. Mr Yang also asked about Singapore’s position on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
The government subscribes to the principle of non-discrimination towards persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have been consulting with industry, and are working to incorporate this principle in guidelines for private insurers. Under the guidelines, insurers should not treat persons with disabilities differently from those without, unless such differences can be justified. The guidelines will be finalised by June 2021 after a period of public feedback. Thereafter, Singapore will withdraw the reservation placed on Article 25(e) of the UNCRPD, which prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of health and life insurance.
Although the guidelines are not yet in place, the insurance industry is conscious of its role to treat all customers fairly, including those with disabilities. MAS expects nothing less of insurers.
Insurers assess the risk that a customer poses when making decisions about coverage and pricing. The customer’s medical history, health condition, the health risks that may be posed by the disability are relevant factors considered. Insurers apply the same assessment for persons with autism, and have extended coverage without charging extra premiums or imposing exclusions where the autism is assessed not to be severe and the customer has low support needs. MAS understands that Mr Loh’s insurer has explained to him the reasons for its coverage decision, and will review the correspondences between Mr Loh and his insurer.
Insurers have different underwriting expertise, risk appetite, and financial capacity. Thus, differences in the risks that insurers provide coverage for are to be expected. There is a variety of insurance coverage tailored for persons with disabilities in Singapore, such as personal accident insurance for individuals with autism or Down Syndrome, travel insurance plans for individuals with pre-existing conditions, including disability conditions, and insurance plans for caregivers towards ensuring continued therapy needs of children with special needs.
The issuance of the guidelines will take us a step closer to the government’s vision of a society that cares for all its members and the needs of those with disabilities.
Executive Director (Insurance)
Monetary Authority of Singapore
Lim Yi Jia
Director (Disability Office)
Ministry of Social and Family Development