Life insurance, multiple sclerosis and discrimination

With my last job I had life insurance, but when I decided to move to Opera I had to get my own insurance so that my mortgage would be paid off if I shuffle off this mortal coil, reducing the burden on my wife.

So I rang the big brokers, moneysupermarket.com in March this year. A few questions about age, life-style etc and the guy on the phone told me that for a 41 year old non-smoker it should cost me about £50 a month. Then he asked the question “do you have any neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis?”. On my affirmative reply, it was practically as if klaxons started sounding in the call centre.

So in May, a special nurse who does no nursing came to my door to extract some blood from me in order that Legal and General might learn just how risky I am. “You’ll hear from us soon”, said the lady who does nothing but take lepers’ blood.

But I didn’t. On chasing up money supermarket at the end of June (four months after my application), I was told to write a letter to Legal and General telling them where I will travel to for work and pleasure. No-one actually bothered to contact me to ask me for such a letter; presumably most people with MS develop compensatory telepathic powers, so it looks like I’ve missed out there as well.

Today they called to tell me good news: they will insure my life. Bad news: there is 100% loading on the premium even though MS is very unlikely to kill me before my mortgage is paid off.

As well as paying double, they will not give me critical illnes cover (that’s where you get the money on diagnosis of a terminal illness rather than when your toes curl up, so you can have a massive piss-up before you croak). So if I get cancer (which is of course nothing to do with MS), I don’t get a pay out. If you don’t have MS, but are diagnosed with liver cancer/ brain tumour, you do get a payout. This doesn’t seem fair to me; I don’t see a link between MS and cancer, AIDS and other terminal illnesses.

Am I an isolated case? Have you had any discriminatory treatment by the insurance industry because of a disability? (You can write to me privately at “bruce” this domain name if you prefer).

16 Responses to “ Life insurance, multiple sclerosis and discrimination ”

Comment by Bill Lees

Definitely unfair discrimination, I’d say. It could be worth getting your MP to take this one up for you, Bruce – at the very least he could put down an EDM and an associated press release to highlight the situation.

Comment by Dave

My brother in law (in his thirties) started to have problems with MS in the past few years. He said that although his boss has been understanding he’s noticed that he’s been left out of some major IT projects at work. He been doing more trouble shooting than major projects. Maybe its because they are concerned for his health or maybe its discrimination.

Comment by Phil Teare

Hmmm. Very bad show.

It wouldn’t be too hard to muster a test of their policy, with multiple quote requests. I’d be happy to help.

Do you know the law on this matter? I’m pretty sure they can’t discriminate. But IANAL

Comment by bruce

The Disability Discrimination Act allows insurers to discriminate (that is, treat someone with a disability on less favourable terms) and rightly so: if I have MS and want to be insured if I can’t work because of MS, that’s obviously riskier and therefore more expensive than if someone who doesn’t have MS want to insure themselves.

But what I don’t understand is why I’m not insured for *any* critical illnesses – cancer, heart attack, AIDs – simply because I have MS.

Comment by Phil Teare

Yes. Makes sense.

Are they obliged to explain their decisions, do you know?

Anyway, I’m with you. Looks like they’re behaving both unfairly, and irrationally.

Comment by Grog

Have you tried the MS society insurance although you probably still will not get critical illness cover.

Comment by Will

Are you an isolated case? No. My girlfriend is diabetic and is routinely denied insurance for many conditions totally unrelated to diabetes or its complications.

Comment by eatanicecream

I think that Legal and General should make reasonable adjustments to ensure that you can access the service. There are exceptions, for example they might charge a higher premium on the grounds that you will(?) live shorter. But to provide a worse standard of service (for example exclude some cover) does not seem reasonable.

Have a look at the Code of Practice for Part 3 of the DDA, from p.95 onwards: http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/Documents/Disability/Services/Access_code.pdf

Things that back you up:

‘An insurer cannot rely on untested assumptions or
stereotypes or generalisations in respect of a
disabled person.’

‘Similarly, unless justifiable in this way, an insurer should not adopt
a general policy or practice of only insuring
disabled people or people with particular
disabilities on additional or adverse terms or
conditions.’

‘The special rules state that disability-related less
favourable treatment in the provision of insurance
services is deemed to be justified if all the
following conditions are satisfied:

it is in connection with insurance business
carried on by the provider of services to the
public

it is based on information which is relevant to
the assessment of the risk to be insured

the information is from a source on which it is
reasonable to rely; and

the less favourable treatment is reasonable
having regard to the information relied on and
any other relevant factors.’

They should make an assessment on a case by case basis, not have a general policy. They should also only rely on ‘information that is relevant’.

Comment by Gill

This is something I’ve been dreading since I was diagnosed. Luckily I already have both Life Insurance (14 years) and Critical Illness (22 years) however, I haven’t yet read through the terms and conditions to see whether I have to declare the MS and if so, whether they’ll terminate or adjust the policies.

@Dave. As far as being left off a project, I can kind of see why. During an MS episode it’s quite possible to completely forget what you were………

;-)

Comment by Julie

Hmm. There’s lots of things that are bad about having MS. That’s what makes it a bastard rather than a good thing.

Life insurance premiums? I’d rather spend the money on something else, so I see this as a good thing. Then again, I have no dependents… big difference.

At the very least write your will if you haven’t done so already – at least they can’t stop you from doing that.

Apart from contents & buildings I don’t have any insurance as I don’t believe companies pay out to folk like us (even if they say they do).

A bit like you with spam, I’ve ‘enjoyed’ several prolonged conversations with insurance people as they’ve tried to sell me policies or refused to confirm a loan until I’ve agreed to buy insurance. When I’ve reached my limit with them I gently inform them that I have MS… AND THEY LEAVE ME ALONE !!! I’m not saying there are perks, but if there were perks I’d be saying this would be one.

Back to the serious matter, there are insurance companies that do insure people with MS. The MS Society has a factsheet about it and a list of the companies.

With regard to the insurance company you mention, I got my mortgage advisor to ask them on my behalf whether they would give life or mortgage cover to someone with MS. They said they would not.

And the difference with MS is that the cause is not known. This is why we can’t give blood, donate organs or do all sorts of things that other sick folk can. It is because we are a medical mystery.

All this sort of discourages the disclosure of MS. Better to hide it? Yes? NO WAY. The more people that know, the more people that are outraged, the better the chance things will get better for us. That and establishing a cause for what ails us.

But while the cause of MS remains unknown I wouldn’t expect any real improvement.

IMHO.

Is this discrimination? I’m not sure that’s the word I’d use. I’d like to know more about the relationship between life insurance and conditions of unknown origin before I comment on that. People with AIDS and cancer may well get life insurance but how much? How great are the premuiums? Etc.

Keep us posted on your search. Meanwhile, I’m staying single and spending the premiums money elsewhere…

Comment by Bruce

Interestingly, on money supermarket’s own forums they have a discussion about life insurance companies’ discrimination against people with MS, and someone even recommends the MS Society’s insurance there.

While I applaud the MS Society for offering insurance, I think that it would be better if all the insurance companies used better actuarial tables so they would compete for our business; better competition usually drives down costs. (Spoken like a true Thatcherite, no?)

Comment by HB

I have payments protection insurance (or permanent health insurance) taken out through a group policy prior to being diagnosed with MS

So having found out that we were being put on the at risk of redundancy list, I have found out that the continuation option has been changed and that now if I chose to leave voluntarily or am forced ie redundancy, I get zilch.

I am still working and turns out this policy – (part of my rewards – ie pick and mix), is purely my companies insurance for which I have the privaledge of paying their insurance premiums as part of my rewards package. But unless I become incapacitated whilst in their employement, now that I am diagnosed I can get no individual cover (impossible for MS for this policy apparently. As have checked with specialists in insuring MS (although he was incredibly helpful – it is the one condition insurance companies will not cover or continue in my case) it also appears to be the only condition they won’t touch with a barge pole – brain tumour, cancer etc – they will cover you)
I have no choice of changing employment (unless I choose to loose my cover),
So if my employers decided to kick me out,change the policy, make me redundant, or I leave I get nothing.

Surely this makes the whole point of these insurance policies pointless. I intend to take this up with MP, discrimination act, any one else in such a situation.

Comment by Kelley Voglund

Multiple sclerosis can only be cured through modern stem cell research. Currently it cannot be cured successfully with modern medications.:;::”

With appreciation

Comment by Bruce

Kelley

I had no idea that MS could be cured! Please post a link to that information.

(You did post a link to foodsupplementdigest.com/whey-protein-dangers/ but it had no relevance to the rest of your comment so I removed it)