Forum: Govt help needed to tackle insurer bias against autism

The skyline of the Central Business District in Singapore in 2019.
The skyline of the Central Business District in Singapore in 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

I commend the support available through CareShield Life for the disabled community (CareShield Life for lifetime disability payouts starts in October, Aug 29).

It is heartening that no one is deprived of coverage, including individuals with pre-existing disabilities.

However, openly autistic people with low support needs like myself still face insurer discrimination, including outright rejections or, at best, additional loading fees and over-reaching exclusions, such as exclusions on the total permanent disability coverage under the Dependants' Protection Scheme.

I have first-hand information that insurers refuse to insure those with autism, or charge them inflated rates without making an effort to find out about the applicants' health situation in detail.

Many with autism are able to hold down full-time jobs, care for themselves and advocate for the community.

We do not exhibit behaviours that put our lives or health at risk.

Insurance discrimination goes against Singapore's commitment towards building an inclusive society and removing the stigma on disability and mental illness.

It is important for insurers to know that autism without co-morbidities is merely a disability affecting social, communication and executive functioning skills.

Physical, biological, intellectual or psychiatric disabilities have nothing to do with an autism diagnosis.

While autism awareness can help, I believe that government intervention is necessary - to ensure equal treatment via incentives and penalties, or to provide an alternative solution similar to CareShield Life.

I look forward to the unveiling of the fourth edition of the Enabling Masterplan, which I hope will safeguard the health and financial security of all disabled people, including those with low support needs.

Wesley Loh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2020, with the headline 'Govt help needed to tackle insurer bias against autism'. Print Edition | Subscribe