Cancer survivors to benefit from insurance sector’s ‘right to be forgotten’ – The Irish Times

Thousands of cancer survivors are set to benefit from the introduction of a “right to be forgotten” when applying for mortgage protection insurance.

Insurers will disregard a cancer diagnosis if treatment ended more than seven years before use, under a code of practice to be announced by Insurance Ireland on Monday.

If an applicant was under 18 at the time their cancer treatment was completed, the right to be forgotten applies after five years.

The revised law will allow coverage of up to €500,000 per applicant, a cap that Insurance Ireland says covers more than 90 per cent of mortgage protection policies issued in the state.

The changes follow discussions between the industry and the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) after the charity released a 2021 report highlighting the difficulties many cancer survivors have had in accessing the necessary life insurance to get a mortgage.

The European Commission formulates plans for a right to be forgotten for cancer survivors to prevent financial discrimination and strengthen their rights. Insurance Ireland says its code of practice goes beyond the Commission’s proposed rules for mortgage amounts of €200,000 or less and a period of 15 years since the end of cancer treatment.

The voluntary code of conduct “adequately balances the needs of cancer survivors without reducing the availability of insurance coverage for other consumers,” according to the industry association. She claims the revised rules, which members have six months to implement, will result in a “quicker, more efficient process”.

Separately, a report by the Society of Actuaries in Ireland warns that giving cancer survivors the right to be forgotten is likely to increase life insurance costs across the board. Depending on how much premiums rise, fewer life insurance products could be sold as some consumers feel unfairly treated, it said.

Life insurance is becoming more affordable for some cancer survivors, and more of them can be expected to take out policies, the report says. However, consumers who have recovered from other diseases or illnesses may feel unfairly treated as they would still be required to disclose their prior condition.

More than 20 million Europeans, including 200,000 people in Ireland, have recovered from cancer. Sixty percent of respondents to a 2021 ICS survey said they had difficulty applying for mortgages, loans and insurance, and 40 percent felt they were being treated unfairly.

About 17,000 cancer survivors applied for life insurance over an eight-year period – 1.7 per cent of all applications – a working group set up by the society estimates in the report, based on records from three of the six insurers in the Irish market. An estimated 10,000 of them said their cancer treatment had ended more than five years ago – about 1 percent of applicants.

None of these applications were automatically accepted. An estimated 8,500 were referred to an insurer for individual assessment, with the remainder being rejected or deferred for reassessment after at least six months. According to Insurance Ireland, applicants who disclose a cancer diagnosis are not automatically denied cover, and many receive it either at standard rates or at an additional cost.

The working group behind the report asked the six life insurers to review fictitious claims from cancer survivors. This showed that the severity of previous cancers was a factor in underwriting decisions. Some said they would accept applications from cancer survivors without paying an additional premium both five and 10 years after completing treatment, particularly if the cancer was early stage or a small tumor that hadn’t spread.

“However, the majority of insurers have indicated that applications for the most advanced cases are likely to be denied, regardless of when treatment was terminated.”

The group says its findings could have greater implications for other products, such as critical illness or income protection.

The ICS welcomed the report and called on the government to push ahead with legislation currently in Seanad that enshrines the right to be forgotten five years after treatment.

“In supporting people who have gone through the application process, we have learned that the uncertainty of the underwriting decision can lead to increased anxiety, demoralization and despair, even for those who left cancer many years ago,” she said Head of Advocacy Rachel Morrough. Cancer survivors to benefit from insurance sector’s ‘right to be forgotten’ – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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