A gay Melbourne couple who were forced to undergo blood and medical tests as part of an application for income protection insurance have labelled the requirements ‘invasive’ and ‘insensitive’.
When Simon Mallia and Lee Milne wanted to upgrade their insurance after buying a second property, they were shocked to read a question in their application which asked if they had “ever engaged in sexual activity with, or worked as, a prostitute; or engaged in anal sexual activity”.
After answering yes, they received a separate confidential questionnaire asking if they had ever used intravenous drugs, had a sexually transmitted disease or practised safe sex.
Mallia and Milne have been in a 10-year monogamous relationship, and share custody of Milne’s two children.
The couple answered honestly that they did not practise safe sex and were then required to undergo blood and medical tests.
Mallia said he and his partner became quite distressed at the process.
“I find the whole thing insensitive, invasive and discriminatory,” he said.
“Of course you need to answer correctly as non-disclosure is deemed criminal and if they found out, your insurance would be revoked. So once you tick yes [to having anal sex], gay men, prostitutes and those who have sex with prostitutes get the pleasure of the more in-depth questionnaire and testing.
“This is not a bank issue or a specific insurance provider issue, but an industry-wide issue of how they treat mainly gay men who answered honestly.”
When the Star Observer investigated the guidelines for insurers regarding monogamous same-sex couples, a representative for the Financial Services Council (FSC), which represents Australia’s life insurers and financial advisory networks, said the council was now looking at changing the guidelines.
“The [FSC] is finalising new guidelines for its member companies to establish whether a life insurance applicant is infected with HIV at the time of their application, or engages in activities which can represent a significantly above-average risk of an infection,” a spokeswoman said.
“Under the proposed guidelines for assessing an applicant’s risk of developing HIV/AIDS based on anal sexual activity, applicants who have been in a monogamous relationship for at least five years, or use condoms, will not be required to answer additional questions or undertake a medical test to determine their HIV status.”
Life insurers are required to have supporting evidence (e.g. actuarial or statistical data to support their underwriting process and decisions) to support their assessment of an applicant’s risk profile.
Mallia, who works in the banking sector, said he’d love to see the improvements to the application process.
“I know how important a safety net like income protection insurance can be in the current economic climate,” he said.
“Any way the experience of applying for a service like this can be improved to encourage gay men to protect themselves financially would be a great step forward.”