Alleging discriminatory practices while obtaining life insurance policies, disability rights activists plan to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), demanding policy changes to make insurance more inclusive.
According to the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Article 25 recognises that the disabled should enjoy the highest standard of health without facing discrimination, and the states ought to ‘prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of health insurance, and life insurance where such insurance is permitted by national law, which shall be provided in a fair and reasonable manner.’
While the convention was ratified by India in 2007, people with disabilities still complain of discrimination while trying to obtain life insurance. “We have seen many cases where people are denied life insurance because of disability, or are charged a higher premium. I faced the problem myself, and I have also seen cases when there are problems in family insurance, where the disabled child is not included in the policy,” says Smitha Srinivasan from the Disability Legislation Unit(DLU) of Vidya Sagar, Chennai. DLU lobbies with formulation of appropriate laws, policies and ensuring the implementation of disability legislation through advocacy.
Some disabled persons say they are often asked to take the policy in somebody else’s name. Suresh(name changed), a 45-year-old from Chennai who suffers from a spinal cord injury that prevents him from walking, says that when he was approached by agents, they asked him to take a policy in his wife’s name as he would not clear the medical test. “But, my wife did not have to take any test, and it was assumed that I won’t clear it because I am visibly disabled. We want equal rights, if not extra benefits. Anyone can become physically challenged in a matter of seconds, but because of notions on disability, I did not get an equal opportunity even for a policy,” he says.
According to a member of the All India Insurance Employee’s Federation, there would be no discrimination against a person on the basis of their disability in providing a policy, but there would be a higher premium charged based on the degree of the medical condition. “Our doctors would conduct an examination, and based on age and medical factors, the premium would be decided according to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority(IRDA) guidelines,” he says. “We will file a PIL on the fixing of extra premium, on family insurance and on accident cover which disabled persons do not get. These should not happen after ratification of the UN convention, where Right to Insurance was included as one of the Articles,” says Smitha.