Insurance Discrimination

I am healthy and I have not required hospitalisation since childhood. I studied in mainstream school and obtained a diploma without special support/help. I have served 52 months of National Service without incident. I have worked full-time for 2 years in a government agency (and after this experience worked for a decade in the private sector without any special support/help) without incident. My friends and colleagues find it hard to believe that I am autistic until they get to know me better.

Proactively declaring autism when it was not explicitly asked was a mistake. While they approved my mother’s insurance application of the same policy within a week, they spent 3 weeks to send their rejection letter to me.

We have considered your proposal very carefully and based the medical information we have regarding the health status of the insured person, we are sorry to inform you that we are unable to accept the cover due to medical condition.

A major autism centre in Singapore wrote a short letter addressed to the company explaining my case and stating that I did not have self-injurious behaviour, which I attached to my next attempt to obtain the same policy. This time, I was accepted as their client without any loading or conditions.

 

Fast forward from 2009 to 2021, insurers continue rejecting applications to cover autistics until the autism community banded together to take collective action. This is because an automatic rejection of autistic applicants without considering their medical condition is an obvious discriminatory practice.

With the passage of MediShield Life, some basic hospitalisation insurance now exists for all Singaporeans including autistics. However, it remains to be seen what new regulations will be passed in July 2021 to stop insurers from discrimination against autistics.

An alternative to Integrated Shield plans is to buy critical illness and international hospitalisation insurance from FWD. There is no need to declare autism at the time of writing.

I also advise autistics who have enlisted in National Service to maximise their insurance coverage under the MINDEF group insurance scheme. This is not only fuss-free (as the insurer will automatically receive the medical records) but also reassuring as MINDEF lawyers will help protect your rights if anything bad happens.

Starting from August 2013, NTUC Income is offering insurance for people with autism in Singapore, though the terms are extremely uncompetitive to the extent that policy is worthless in my opinion.

For more insurance options, consider joining the Investing & Business chat group on the Whatsapp Autism Community Singapore Chat Network to find a supportive financial advisor.

 

Tips to avoid being blacklisted

  • Always maximise insurance coverage before getting an autism diagnosis
  • Consult with someone who is experienced in this area, preferably an insurance agent who has succeeded in obtaining insurance cover for special needs people.
  • Avoid using the word autism at all costs. If there is a more specific diagnosis such as Aspergers’ Syndrome, use that instead.
  • Emphasise on any positive aspects if they are true:
    • No self-injurious behaviour
    • No history of medical and psychiatric issues
    • Recovery has occurred (note: must be substantiated by a letter from a qualified professional)
    • Able to work competitively without any issues
  • Provide a letter from a qualified professional to explain your situation (including all the positive aspects).
  • Never lie to the insurance company. If they find out, you can lose your right to claim on the policy, which defeats the purpose of obtaining insurance cover.

 

Insure Yourself
If the insurance company does not want you as a client, there are still many things you can do for yourself to protect yourself from problems. Living a sane, safe and healthy lifestyle is better than having a ton of insurance. Examples include:

  • Taking good care of our body
    • No smoking
    • No recreational drugs
    • Avoid unhealthy foods
    • Cultivate good hygiene (e.g. brush our teeth at twice a day)
    • Take multivitamins and suitable nutritional supplements
    • Practice safe sex
    • Avoid living in polluted places
  • No dangerous activities
    • No dangerous sports (e.g. mountain climbing, diving, parachuting)
    • Avoid dangerous places
      • If you must travel, always buy travel insurance (which does not require a declaration of pre-existing conditions)
    • Avoid places with diseases (e.g. hospitals)
    • Work in a non-risky job
    • Live in a safe neighbourhood and country
    • Use safe transportation (e.g. avoid riding motorcycles or sitting on the roof of a train/bus)
  • Take care of your emotional health
    • Live a stress-free, meaningful life
    • Work and live with agreeable people
    • Avoid living and working in psychologically stressful environments
  • Live in good financial health
    • Live within your means
    • Have adequate savings/assets for emergency use
    • Keep a good credit record so that you can borrow money at low cost when necessary

Remember that an ounce of prevention is better than a ton of cure. An insurance policy is merely one of the ways you can protect yourself from disasters. You can still do whatever is in your power to prevent disasters from happening in the first place.