There is another overlooked but powerful way to empower autistic individuals - providing competitive insurance services (Empowering autistic students through art; Dec 18).
People with autism have difficulty obtaining insurance products. Insurers become reluctant to accept them as soon as they declare they have an autism diagnosis, even if they are meaningfully employed and have good health. This is especially the case for private hospitalisation insurance and annuities.
One of the most inclusive insurance companies, NTUC Income, provides a policy named SpecialCare (Autism) to serve the autism community. However, if we compare it with the Enhanced IncomeShield plan for Singaporeans, it seems uncompetitive. The higher premiums for much lesser coverage imply that people with autism are of an even higher health risk than smokers.
Insurance policies are one of the most useful ways to protect people against catastrophic events. Denial of adequate protection adds to the existing discrimination that people with autism face from employers. If they cannot find work or get adequate protection, how can we expect them to become productive, contributing members of society?
I call upon insurers and policymakers to make the right, inclusive decision. If the incumbents are not keen to serve the special needs market, I hope that new entrants like FWD and Singapore Life will consider taking this on.
Director, Autism Recovery Network