People living with HIV continue to face barriers to accessing insurance, despite improvements in availability over the past decade, according to a new report from NAT (National AIDS Trust).
New research from NAT shows that one in four (25%) people living with HIV have been refused a financial product or quoted an unaffordable premium in the last five years. Some insurance products, such as income protection insurance and critical illness cover, remain completely unavailable to people living with HIV.
From the 1980s up until the early 2000s, it was nearly impossible for someone living with HIV to access many financial products, including mortgages, life and protection insurance products, and even general insurance products such as motor insurance.
Due to improvements in availability over the last decade this is no longer the case – yet barriers still remain.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT said: “Most people diagnosed with HIV today can expect to live a healthy life with a normal life expectancy; their long-term financial security is as important as anyone else’s. Given the dramatic improvements in the health of people living with HIV since effective treatment, we question whether substantially higher insurance premiums (or total exclusion from a product) are necessary or appropriate.”
“We’re especially concerned that critical illness cover policies will only pay claims for HIV when acquired through an occupational injury or assault. HIV is singled out as the only condition where mode of transmission is relevant to the success of a claim. This differential treatment is stigmatising and unnecessary.”
People living with HIV often struggle to navigate a marketplace which caters for the standard consumer – with only three in ten (28%) saying they knew where to look for HIV-inclusive insurance products.
Negative experiences have led three in five (60%) people to avoid applying for financial products because of their HIV status. This self-exclusion is largely due to fears of refusal, higher costs and stigma.
Deborah added: “Many people still remember, or have heard about, the discrimination faced by people living with HIV from the insurance sector up until the early 2000s. We applaud the insurance sector for the significant steps taken to eradicate discriminatory practices and improve access for people living with HIV, but we have found that many people are still not aware of these changes or struggle to find HIV-inclusive products. It’s therefore vital that insurance providers and HIV organisations work together to better communicate the availability of financial products to people living with HIV.”
“We know that the difficulties some people living with HIV face in accessing certain insurance products illustrate a much wider issue facing people with pre-existing conditions. All stakeholders, including the FCA and the Government, need to work strategically together to address the persistent barriers to access that many people face because of their health condition and determine how their needs can be better met.”
Laurie Edmans, Commissioner at the Financial Inclusion Commission said:
‘The positive developments in improved life expectancy and health of people diagnosed with HIV are very welcome. It is important that the terms which insurers offer accurately reflect the risks as they are today, not as they were, or as they might be perceived. Some insurers do so in this sensitive area, but it is not universally so. This important piece of work by NAT shows that there are opportunities, as well as issues, and is very timely.’
Paul Fleming, HIV community representative said:
‘HIV medication has progressed incredibly in the last 20 years but society hasn’t kept up. I am fit, healthy and HIV positive; it isn’t a contradiction. Yet financial services have been slow to wake up to that fact. This is a great piece of work by NAT.’