Can Being Gay Prevent You From Getting Life Insurance?

If you are a chain-smoker, heavy drinker or are extremely overweight, you are likely to find it difficult obtaining a life insurance policy with reasonable premium rates. However, sexual orientation should now have no bearing on the availability to you of insurance products. This positive development is reflected in the recently published guide from the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which was co-produced with Compass, the gay financial advisers.

Despite the fact that, since October 2005 insurance companies have no longer been asking the kind of questions which may lead to disclosure of sexuality (and so the possibility of premium rates being raised because of a potential HIV/AIDS connection), concerns about life insurance expense and prejudice have persisted in the gay community.

Unnecessary fears have resulted in many rejecting life cover altogether – an unadvisable move for anyone with a partner or mortgage. Ever since the first appearance of AIDS in the early 1980s, many gay men applying for life cover have complained of unfair treatment, referring to the question about sexuality (the ‘gay question’) on application forms for life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection.

The ABI guidance has put to an end this practice and that of asking any other intrusive personal questions. The guidance also cleared up the common misconception that simply taking an HIV test will be damaging to applications from gay men. In fact, you are not required to declare negative tests.

On the other hand, insurers can ask all applicants a more general question such as “Within the past five years, have you been exposed to the risk of HIV infection?” This is understandable given that HIV can be contracted not just as a result of unsafe sex, but also through intravenous drug use, blood transfusions, and surgery undertaken in certain parts of the world.

If you have tested positive for HIV, you most disclose this information on your application form. You should also disclose any sexually transmitted disease you may have had, although you are not expected to make judgements on the health implications of such diseases. One-off minor infections are not likely to be of any concern to insurers, but if there is any doubt about long term implications for health (as, for example, would be the case concerning syphilis) your doctor will be contacted, with your consent.

Moreover, insurers can no longer make assumptions about sexuality from details of your living arrangements, occupation or medical history. An individual’s occupation now cannot be used to indicate HIV risk; however, it is legitimate for insurers to ask about your occupation for the purpose of calculating the risk of death or accidents at work.

According to the ABI, there is at present no data on the sexual behaviour of couples in a civil partnership. Consequently, some life insurance companies still treat gay couples as single people when assessing HIV risk, while other providers apply the same consideration to those in a civil partnership as they would to a heterosexual married couple.

According to the Office for National Statistics, almost 16,000 gay partnerships have taken place since the Civil Partnership Act of December 2005. And currently, the ABI is working to insure that men registering civil partnerships are treated the same as married couples with regard to HIV risk.

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