The insurance industry could get roughed up abit as The Equality Bill makes its way through Parliament if a meeting of the All Party Group on the topic just before the Christmas break is any guide.
The Bill will extend anti-discrimination laws to cover age discrimination “where it has negative consequences” and, for the most part, MPs and the industry seem fairly comfortable with this. There is, however, one huge dark cloud hovering over the insurance industry and, yet again, it is the travel insurance sector. MPs and Peers of all parties were united in their hostility to the travel market and its arbitrary age limits. As one Labour Peer eloquently put it: “There is a concept of citizenship and pooled risk which insurers are ignoring by saying over 70s and 75s should go to specialist insurers”. This view was echoed by Tory and Labour MPs and no amount of reassurance by the ABI’s Nick Startling was able to deflect the Parliamentarians from the belief that the travel insurance market practises a rigid and unjustifiable level of age discrimination.
While the ABI will not have found this hostility welcome, it will no doubt be grateful that it is out in the open before the Bill starts being debated in earnest. It gives it time to tackle the problem and that is where its response should be directed, not on producing briefings pretending the problem doesn’t exist.
There is a problem with the travel insurance sector and the way it acts as well as the way it is perceived. I cannot see any number of surveys on the availability of affordable, good quality travel insurance (largely from specialist insurers) for the over 70s satisfying many MPs. They will want to see hard evidence that the arbitrary age limits we all know are widespread in the travel insurance market have been dropped. If they don’t see this, they may well turn over a few more insurance stones. Once that starts happening the industry will lose control of the debate and could find Parliament reaching some uncomfortable conclusions.
This would be regrettable as far as other classes of business are concerned as most MPs seem satisfied that the data exists to justify different premium rates, although they would like to see more sharing of that data to give greater authority to discriminatory ratings.
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