Over the past few years there has been a lot of talk about improving access to insurance for people living with mental health conditions.
Some insurers are now at the stage where they are able to factor positive lifestyle choices into their decision-making processes.
Someone that is eating healthily, exercising regularly and being proactive in managing their symptoms may be able to access more favourable terms for insurance.
This is of course a really positive step that has been made; a recognition of someone’s mental health resilience. But this does lead onto another consideration: what about someone’s physical resilience?
I have hypermobility syndrome. It essentially means that I am a contortionist, and that I am more likely to break a bone and sprain a muscle than a ‘normal’ person. If I were to apply for a personal income protection policy, I would be seen as an ‘impaired life’ – we really need to scrap that wording.
I have never taken a day off work with this condition. I have chosen a career where I use my mind, not my body. If I had a leg injury, it would not stop me from working on a computer. If I had an arm injury, I would use adaptive technology to work.
I also mastered the skill of working one-handed when I had my children, and breastfeeding and cuddles meant that I spent months unable to work in a normal way. People make adaptions all the time.
I will never jump out of an airplane, run a marathon or take up rugby. All of my life I have had to adapt to what my body can and cannot do. People that are living with chronic health conditions, physical or mental, have often focused their life upon opportunities that are supportive of them.
I do not think that insurers should ignore health conditions, they need to be aware of them and assess any enhanced risk that could result in a claim.
However, I feel that there should be an increased understanding of someone’s physical resilience within underwriting decisions, rather than making blanket assumptions based upon the name of a diagnosis.
A clear example of this is the lack of personal IP cover that is available to people living with HIV.
Is someone living with HIV and following medical advice in terms of medications and treatments more of a risk than someone that is applying for IP with an undiagnosed heart condition or diabetes?
People living with HIV get the equivalent of a yearly medical and if these tests showed anything, they would probably have an intervention earlier than others.
Speaking with insurers, it is clear that mindsets are shifting and that there is an increased want to improve access to insurance for all.