Reply to Parliamentary Question on proposed guidelines for insurers to adopt fair and responsible practices towards persons with disabilities and mental health conditions
QUESTION NO 1634
NOTICE PAPER 1026 OF 2022
FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
Date: For Parliament Sitting on 4 March 2022
Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament
Mr Leon Perera, MP, Aljunied GRC
To ask the Prime Minister (a) whether an update can be provided on the proposed guidelines for insurers to adopt fair and responsible practices towards Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and those with mental health conditions, which were expected to be finalised by June 2021; and (b) what are the reasons for the delays in finalising the guidelines.
Answer by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister and Minister in charge of MAS:
1. MAS expects financial institutions (FIs) to deal fairly with all their customers, including persons with disabilities (PWDs) and those with mental health conditions. Following feedback and concerns raised by PWDs, MAS and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) have engaged insurers to ensure that they do not deny PWDs insurance or charge higher premiums unless these can be justified from a risk perspective.
2. MAS has also carefully reviewed individual cases that have been highlighted to us, to ascertain whether insurers had treated PWDs fairly. The reviews have not found unfair underwriting practices in these cases. However, the insurers could have better explained underwriting outcomes to applicants in some instances. The Life Insurance Association Singapore (LIA) has emphasised this to their member insurers and LIA members are committed to ensuring clearer communication.
3. Even though MAS has not found any unfair underwriting practices, MAS will codify the fair principles of insurance underwriting into transparent guidelines for insurers. Under the proposed guidelines, insurance applications from PWDs should be subject to the same underwriting policy and process applied to those without disabilities. Any differential treatment should be based on an objective assessment of information relevant to the risks to be insured, rather than just the fact of a disability per se.
4. The scope of the proposed guidelines has since been expanded to include promoting fair and responsible practices towards a broader range of customers. This means scoping other types of FIs, transactions and customers into the guidelines. MAS expects to consult on the proposed guidelines by the second half of 2022.
5. Together with MSF, MAS has continued to engage individuals and groups representing PWDs and those with mental health conditions. We are also working with the insurance industry associations to provide more guidance and assistance to these individuals on their insurance purchases. For example, LIA is developing a consumer guide to raise awareness and enhance transparency of insurers’ risk assessment approach towards health insurance underwriting.