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Tuesday, 09 January 2018

MP urges action to help people with complex health conditions access insurance

Written by Dan O'Donoghue and Jon Vale

Insurance companies risk creating a "genetic underclass" by excluding those who suffer with rare neurological conditions from cover, MPs have heard.

SNP MP Gavin Newlands told ministers that action was needed to help those with conditions such as Huntington's Disease get access to insurance.

The Paisley and Renfrewshire North MP (pictured) said that many were being "unfairly refused or outright priced out of the market" because of "misleading and inaccurate" information about the condition.

He said: "Those with complex genealogical conditions such as Huntington's in particular have real trouble trying to access affordable and fair insurance that the rest of us quite frankly take for granted.

"This is not an easy issue, there's no easy fix, it is not black and white, but the barriers facing those affected remain deeply unfair."

He added: "If we don't develop a system that better understands these neurological conditions then we risk creating a genetic underclass of people who will be excluded from accessing affordable insurance due to misleading and inaccurate information gathered by insurance companies.

"Those affected believe they have been discriminated against by the insurance companies. The Government has a duty to respond to the thousands of people across the UK who have been waiting for action to be taken against the insurance companies.

"There is plenty that could be done on the issue, I'd certainly start with the HD insurance review which is now nearly four years overdue."

Treasury minister Stephen Barclay said there was nothing to suggest widespread exclusion from the insurance market, and a key document had been extended in 2014 which gave "clarity and confidence" to those undergoing tests as to how genetic information is treated by insurers.

"One needs to differentiate between two different points," he said.

"The first is whether family history is taken into account by insurers, and in that regard yes it is, but that is not specific to rare conditions.

"I know from my own family history where family members have had a medical condition that affects not just in terms of life insurance, it affects other areas of insurance.

"It affects travel insurance, it affects a whole range of insurance, so family history is taken into account, and that was, to a degree, the substance of (Mr Newlands's) remarks.

"That is different from whether those with concerns can have a predictive test, and the predictive test is capped at £500,000, 95% of life insurance falls within that cap, and it's whether the predictive test is being fettered by the restriction on insurance.

"It's to that where the concordat is there to give comfort to people that they can go ahead and have that genetic test."

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