Age discrimination remains rife in the insurance industry according to new independent research published by Age Concern and Help the Aged.
New evidence reveals a third of travel insurers automatically exclude people aged 80 or older who are seeking quotes, irrespective of their health status. The list of offenders employing discriminatory policies includes a number of household names.
The research shows that while the situation for those at the higher end of the age spectrum is extreme, those in other age groups also experience ageism. Access to insurance becomes increasingly patchy once someone hits 65, with some companies refusing to provide insurance quotes to people in the 65-79 age bracket.
The research also shows older people are more vulnerable to paying over the odds for insurance due to the huge range in price of products. While the research shows quotes for travel insurance to Spain vary from £11 to £72 for 60-65 year olds (a £61 spread), this increases to £40 and £413 for people aged 80 plus - a £373 spread. This evidence points to the uncompetitive nature of insurance for older people and a market that clearly is not working.
Refusing products to older people not only sends a harmful ageist message to people, it also places an unacceptable restriction on people's lives. Problems obtaining insurance cover can mean people are prevented visiting friends and family and enjoying holidays abroad.
Andrew Harrop at Age Concern and Help the Aged says, “The recent government decision to allow insurers to continue legally discriminating against people on the basis of age is profoundly unjust. It defies belief that in 2010 a business is still able to refuse to deal with someone because of the date on their birth certificate. We accept age should sometimes be taken into account in pricing insurance, but automatic age limits completely undermine the message the Equality Bill is supposed to be sending. Our fear is that household name insurers will see the new law as a green light to shut their doors to older customers. The Equality Bill was meant to end age discrimination and promote a new approach to designing services with our ageing population in mind. Instead this decision simply confirms people older people as second-class consumers. The Government must stick to its principles and insist that mainstream insurers serve people of all ages. The insurance industry must wake up to the fact that more of us than ever are living longer, healthier and more active lives. Continuing to discriminate against our ageing population is not only bad for older people, it is bad for business."
Travel health insurance: News update: 29 January 2010