The Covid-19 pandemic has up-ended many areas of our lives. In normal circumstances, buying a home can often be a complex and stressful process. However, Covid-19 has made the purchase of a new home especially difficult for people with underlying health conditions. That is because individuals with underlying health conditions are finding it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to access certain types of insurance cover during this pandemic.
A case from my constituency of Dublin North-West illustrates the obstacles that are now being placed in front of people who have underlying health conditions who are trying to access mortgage protection and life insurance. A young professional couple with two young children, who have struggled to get themselves onto the property ladder, have been denied mortgage protection because the otherwise young, fit and healthy husband was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It has taken them years of great patience, hard work and sacrifice for them to reach a point where they are in a position to purchase a house. Having successfully secured mortgage approval, they entered a highly competitive housing market. They managed to get a sale agreed on a home suitable for their family, but in the process they had to extend and stretch their savings to a point where there will not be any money left over for essential refurbishment. Having gone through so much to secure a house, it came as a shock to them to find that every major insurer in the country would not provide mortgage protection cover to them because the husband had been diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. It is clear that while Covid remains an issue, the insurance companies would either defer or decline cover for them.
Their case is not unique and it is becoming apparent that many people are having their house purchase fall through because they cannot get mortgage protection due to the pandemic. What all of these people have in common is that they have a variety of underlying conditions, which previously would not have precluded them from obtaining mortgage protection insurance. The family in question contacted numerous insurance brokers in an attempt to get mortgage protection. However, it was made clear to them that there was little or no hope of them getting cover during the current pandemic. It appears that the re-insurance companies have instructed the underwriters of the insurance not to accept an individual who rates above a certain level on the underwriting tables due to Covid. The result is that individuals with an underlying illness are rating above the new lower level. The husband in the case I outlined was clearly insurable pre-Covid, as he is no less healthy than he was before Covid but he is being denied cover because of his underlying condition in this pandemic.
The whole process has been exhausting for the family. The denial and deferral of cover, with no light at the end of the tunnel, is disheartening and depressing, especially for those families who have worked so hard and have overcome so many hurdles and obstacles to get to this point, only to see their dreams shattered when they are almost at the finishing line. Insurance companies have a duty to be fair to the consumer under the consumer protection code. This case clearly shows they are not being fair to this family and in fact are discriminating against the individual in question and his family. Will the Minister of State commit to engaging with the Insurance Ireland to end this discriminatory practice?