Forum: Insurers expected to deal fairly with all clients, including those with disabilities

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

Mr Wesley Loh (Govt help needed to tackle insurer bias against autism, Sept 17) and Mr Daryl Yang (Laws needed to end insurance bias, Sept 19) 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 and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have been consulting with industry players, 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 next year after a period of public feedback.

Thereafter, Singapore will withdraw the reservation placed on the UNCRPD article, 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 client poses when making decisions about coverage and pricing. His medical history, health condition, and 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 them.

Insurers have different underwriting expertise, risk appetite, and financial capacity. Thus, differences in the risks that insurers provide coverage for are to be expected.

The Government subscribes to the principle of non-discrimination towards persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Social and Family Development and the Monetary Authority of Singapore have been consulting with industry players and are working to incorporate this principle in guidelines for private insurers.

There is a variety of insurance coverage tailored for persons with disabilities in Singapore, including personal accident insurance for individuals with autism or Down syndrome, travel insurance plans for individuals with pre-existing conditions, and disability conditions, and so on.

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.

Daniel Wang

Executive Director

Insurance

Monetary Authority of Singapore

Lim Yi Jia

Director

Disability Office

Ministry of Social and Family Development

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2020, with the headline 'Insurers expected to deal fairly with all clients, including those with disabilities'. Subscribe