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'Offensive and outdated': LGBTIQA+ Australians seek insurance reform

An Australian survey of 500 LGBTIQA+ people commissioned by the insurance industry has found widespread discrimination and exclusion, ranging from misgendering, to intrusive and “offensive, outdated” questioning, to denial of cover.

More should be done by insurers to ensure questions reflect different households, the poll found, with one respondent stating the forms “don't include what my family looks like - single parent family with lesbian partner not cohabiting”.

“Often, LGBTIQA+ customers are framed as a risk - because of our health, industries that we work in, or on other grounds,” the Victorian Pride Lobby’s Worth the Risk survey says. “What we want to say is that we are worth the risk.”

It also says assumed risk can often be attributed to “outdated assumptions that need to be challenged”.

The survey was commissioned by the industry's InterInsurance Group, which is made up of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer or questioning, asexual and other (LGBTIQA+) insurance industry employees and allies from 15 companies.

Nearly half of those polled reported discrimination or exclusion when applying for insurance, although two thirds reported excellent service. Around 40% had been reluctant to claim – some due to fear and stigma, particularly for people living with HIV.

For those that did claim, more than a third experienced intrusive, awkward, discomforting or embarrassing questioning.

Most trans and gender diverse respondents struggled with self-declaring their gender. Difficulty updating information on file was a common complaint.

The Lobby makes 24 recommendations, such as making it clearer what is covered, inclusion training, and updating the life insurance code of conduct to add vulnerable customers.

It is also calling for updated HIV underwriting guidelines, actuarial and statistical data to reflect current medical advice, a consistent approach to risk rating based on sex and gender, and removal of exclusions or premium loadings.

“LGBTIQA+ inclusion needs to be led from the top. Peak bodies, such as the Insurance Council of Australia and the Financial Services Council, have an important role to play,” it said.

“We hope this report can guide the insurance industry in providing respectful treatment to LGBTIQA+ people seeking insurance. While many insurers celebrate diversity amongst their workforce and at pride events, it is equally important that they address and respect the diversity of their customer cohort.”

The ICA tells the general insurance industry is committed to inclusive and respectful treatment of all consumers, and the Worth the Risk report was sponsored by insurers to make actionable recommendations for change.

The Council is “eager to better understand the LGBTIQA+ experiences with insurance providers as highlighted,” a spokesperson said. “The ICA has invited a discussion with the Victorian Pride Lobby to hear about the survey findings and customer experience insights so we can further consider these together, with the ICA’s Consumer Advisory Committee and our members.”

Some survey respondents who disclosed their HIV status in insurance applications felt that it was “not treated as a health condition… only a financial risk,” while others suggested insurers should assign LGBTIQA+ staff to build empathy.

Research suggests that up to 4% of the population are lesbian, gay or bisexual, while 1% are transgender and 1.7% have an intersex variation.

The General Insurance Code of Practice states insurers are committed to taking extra care with customers who experience vulnerability, but it does not include sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics as factors that cause vulnerability. The Life Insurance Code of Practice does not mention vulnerability.

In contrast, the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia recognises that LGBTIQA+ people face specific issues that make them vulnerable.

“When we talk of vulnerability, it is not a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or sex characteristics that is the reason for their disadvantage but rather the failure of institutions and wider society to ensure that everyone has equal access to services,” the Lobby said.

“Insurers have a role to play in redressing this.”

Here are samples of survey feedback:

- The questions you have to fill in are very problematic and need to change. They’re very triggering

- Insurers treat being gender diverse like a disability

- Being HIV positive, I was made to feel like a leper

- The sexuality and sexual practices-related questions in the application process were offensive and outdated

- The questionnaire for income protection was degrading. I didn’t go with them and felt like lodging a complaint

- Forms lack non-binary options for pronouns and gender

- Only one insurance company had the option for nonbinary but the quote cost more than that of a female and male policy put together

- When they bring up your details and see two women on a couple’s policy it is stilted and weird, tripping over sentences, awkward pauses between words or just outright misgendering of my wife. They need LGBTQ+ 101

- Employees are not always well trained in communicating appropriately and respectfully with sexuality and gender diverse people. Constant assumptions, misgendering etc.

- Insurance companies always assume my sexual orientation and use heteronormative language

- They constantly assume my partner is of the opposite sex

- Every time I call regarding my contents insurance which I share with my same-sex partner, they misgender her despite me explaining it multiple times

- Hate having to identify as male on forms but don't want to risk not being covered

- Just go with my birth gender to avoid any issues or fraud, even though it doesn't align with me and causes me dysphoria

- I was misgendered for all my insurance, car, house, and home.

- Exceptionally cold. The information I was providing was very sensitive for me and I don't think it was treated with respect

- The (travel) insurance industry hasn't kept up adequately with pricing risk for HIV+ people who are managing the disease with modern treatments

- I only have insurance through super because as (an HIV) positive guy I can’t get standalone.

- Changing names is always a bit of a nightmare. It’s generally easier just to cancel and then sign up with a different company