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of everyone affected by epilepsy

Research highlights problems in obtaining insurance cover

19 January, 2005

The difficulties
experienced by many people with epilepsy in obtaining insurance cover
have been highlighted in research published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior.

Kate Jacoby and Professor Ann Jacoby from the University of Liverpool undertook the study after members of Epilepsy Action had reported difficulties in obtaining insurance.

A
random sample of Epilepsy Action members were surveyed and overall 62
per cent of people who responded reported experiencing problems
obtaining insurance (e.g. increased premiums, restricted coverage or
outright refusal) with 36 per cent reporting that they had been refused
one or more types of insurance due to their epilepsy.

The
researchers wrote that, under the UK Disability Discrimination Act,
insurers are able to discriminate between people with a disability and
people without a disability only where it can be justified by
'information or data relevant to the assessment of the risk to be
insured and from a source upon which it is reasonable to rely'.
However, they write, there are few standards to regulate the
information or data used.

Twenty-six
per cent of people who responded reported problems obtaining travel
insurance, 24 per cent reported problems with motor insurance, 23 per
cent had problems with life insurance, 15 per cent with health
insurance, 13 per cent with person accident insurance and three per
cent with home insurance.

Those who took part in the research reported various experiences when trying to obtain cover from insurance companies:

  • 'I
    regained my driving licence after one year non-driving following
    night-time fits. Several companies refused me insurance. One even said:
    ‘Phone back in 10 years if you are fit free.''
  • 'I
    rang for car insurance when I got my licence back. When I declared my
    epilepsy they told me: ‘We don't insure epileptics,' and hung up.'
  • 'It
    took a lot of details and a letter from a doctor to confirm the
    information I supplied to the insurers. They caused me a lot of anguish
    and an unacceptable [feeling] of inferiority in the manner they dealt
    with me.'
  • "With
    my motor insurance they wanted me to have a medical-I refused because
    if DVLA can give me my licence back then that should be enough.'
  • 'Travel
    agent said we would be insured if we produced a letter from the doctor
    saying ‘fit free'. Produced letter and was promptly refused cover.'
  • 'Insurance
    companies sometimes seem to take a blanket approach to epilepsy,
    assuming that all types and degrees of severity are the same. I was
    refused motor insurance by a large number of companies although my form
    was relatively mild and I held a lifelong driving licence.'

The
researchers conclude that the insurance sector needs to adopt an policy
based on evidence when deciding the risks in insuring people with
epilepsy, which should lead to fair and reasonable rates for people
with the condition.