Thursday, 16 December 2021
Department of Finance
129. To ask the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to the fact that persons with eating disorders are currently being denied access to mortgage protection insurance policies, at times on a near permanent basis in respect to persons with long-term conditions; the steps he is taking to address the issues faced by persons unable to access life insurance; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62348/21]
I note that the questions refers to difficulties accessing life insurance for individuals with eating disorders. With regard to applications for life insurance, it is my understanding that generally, insurers use a combination of rating factors in making their individual decisions on whether to offer cover and what terms to apply. These can include age; health; family medical history; occupation; and lifestyle. In addition, these may be determined or linked to the policy duration. In the case of mortgage protection policies, these tend to be over the lifetime of the repayment schedule. In addition, my understanding is that different insurers do not use the same combination of rating factors. Accordingly, prices and availability of cover varies across the market, and will be priced in accordance with firms’ prior claims experience.
My officials have previously engaged with Insurance Ireland about accessing life insurance for individuals with medical conditions. According to Insurance Ireland, it is not standard practice to automatically decline cover for any cohort of applicants. It stated that insurers are obliged to assess the risk involved as part of any application for a life insurance policy, which will be specific to the individual applicant, and that the availability of cover depends on a number of factors. In this regard, I understand that applicants are asked questions about various conditions in order for insurers to assess the risk involved, and that all applicants are assessed against the same criteria. If higher risk is identified as a result of this assessment, Insurance Ireland has advised that the policy will be adjusted accordingly, and cover may be declined if the applicant poses a risk beyond the insurer’s threshold.
It may be useful for the Deputy to know that Insurance Ireland operates a free Insurance Information Service for those who have queries, complaints or difficulties in relation to obtaining insurance cover, which can be accessed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Where somebody feels they have been treated unfairly by a particular insurance provider, they have the option of making a complaint to the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO). The FSPO acts as an independent arbiter of disputes that consumers may have with their insurance company or other financial service provider. The FSPO can be contacted either by email at email@example.com or by telephone at 01-567-7000.
Finally, it is important to note that neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can intervene in the provision or pricing of insurance products, nor can we compel any insurer operating in the Irish market to provide cover to specific individuals or businesses. This position is reinforced by the EU framework for insurance (the Solvency II Directive).