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Progress in Insurance Discrimination Dispute

Progress in Insurance Discrimination Dispute

Rainbow Wellington announced today that its initiatives regarding discrimination against gay men in health insurance applications were paying off.

“For some time we have been received reports from our members that a number of insurance companies have been insisting on information regarding sexual orientation and specific sexual practises on their application forms before they will offer health insurance at reasonable premium,” said Tony Simpson, chair of Rainbow Wellington. “In particular these have cropped up when newly contracted partners in civil unions have attempted to extend existing health insurance policies to their new partners on the same terms as heterosexual partners. This seems to us to be a breach both of the Human Rights Act and the Privacy Act.”

Rainbow Wellington took the opportunity last year of a review of the relationship between the insurance industry and the administration of the Human Rights Act to take up their concerns. At about the same time in the context of a discrimination review in Britain the industry there had agreed to stop seeking such information in offering insurance policies.

“Regrettably,” says Tony, “the Human Rights Commission did not include any reference to this in their final review report. We therefore took it up with one of the major companies involved (ING), because we happened to have one of the standard forms they use. But although they tried to justify their position on insurance grounds, they did not respond to our suggestions that this was in breach of human rights legislation. We have therefore referred the matter to both the Privacy Commissioner and the Human Rights Commission.”

The former has not yet responded but the latter has offered an opportunity to meet with the industry and to try and resolve the matter in that forum. Rainbow Wellington is conscious of the failure to do so in the previous forum but has indicated to the HRC that they will take part in any process which might lead to a resolution, while reserving their rights to pursue the matter through more formal channels.

“Asking someone outright if they engage in anal intercourse on an insurance application form is both outrageous and highly offensive, as well as being totally inappropriate and, in our view, a clear breach of the law. We aren’t going to let this lie,” says Tony.


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