Stuff argues against insurer’s use of genetic tests in underwriting, and other news

An article in Stuff by Sophie Harris and Daniel Smith says kiwis should be ‘very concerned’ about genomic discrimination. NZ insurance companies are allowed to see the results of genetic tests, which has led to some people having difficulties getting cover for treatments related to results of their genetic tests. It could also be leading to reduced donations to fertility clinics as potential donors decide against donating because results of the required genetic tests can be used by insurers in underwriting decisions. International research also shows some people decline medial genetic testing and participation in genetic research because of fear of the impact on being able to obtain insurance cover.

A United States survey found 28% of participants declined genomic testing because of concerns about insurance discrimination, the New Zealand Medical Journal reported recently. But Australia and Canada are legislating to protect individuals from genetic discrimination by insurance companies. Canada, in 2017, introduced a complete ban on the use of genetic test results to discriminate, including for insurance and employment. The Australian life insurance industry, in 2019, introduced a five-year ban on the use of genetic tests in underwriting. New Zealand insurance companies have not followed suit.

Southern Cross chief sales and marketing officer Kerry Boielle said it did not add a pre-existing condition exclusion as a result of a genetic abnormality, and typically would not increase premiums or refuse to issue a policy based on that information. However, it may exclude any consultations, further tests, or treatment required in its policy as a result of an abnormality. Southern Cross said that in the past five years, 51 members had disclosed a genetic abnormality or mutation, and 51 people had exclusions applied to their policy as a result of genetic abnormalities.

The patient advocacy group AGenDA (Against Genetic Discrimination Aotearoa) is calling for a complete ban on the basis that genetic discrimination is a consumer protection issue and a human rights issue.

These articles all tend to overlook the impact on insurance and by implication the other consumers in the insured pool. Underwriting protects the other insured people from paying claims where the risk of claim is too high to be insured normally.

Insurers use medical information to price risk, of course, and it is not clear how this would be affected by a ban on the use of genetic test data. The use of health information by insurers in New Zealand is a protected form of discrimination provided it is based on sufficient statistical evidence. Information which an applicant knows, but which an insurer is not permitted to know, heightens an information asymmetry between applicant and insurer which exacerbates anti-selection. An applicant who knows they are more at-risk will seek out insurance, while applicants who know they are not at-risk may not seek insurance – skewing the insured pool and increasing costs for everyone insured. At extreme levels this can make insurance no longer affordable for the market at large or even threaten the viability of insurance markets. For this reason, the limits on the use of genetic testing have tended to be quite modest. For more information refer to this article by Australian Genomics on the Australian Financial Services Council moratorium on the use of genetic tests in life insurance.

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Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

9 Dec 2021 – Third reading in Parliament completed for the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill. This is the Act that allows people to self-identify some information on their birth certificate. I am pleased for the LGBTQ+ community at this milestone. For insurers, some changes may be required in application forms for the life and health insurance industry to achieve adequate disclosure from a few applicants of relevant medical history, but many companies are already well advanced in this respect.

Legal and regulatory update for the life and health insurance sector

7 Dec 2021 – Committee stage of the Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill completed in Parliament.

7 Dec 2021 – ASIC in Australia launched a Financial Advice Hub for advice licensees and advisers.

nib accredited Rainbow Tick and Accessibility Tick, and more daily news

nib New Zealand has been accredited the Rainbow Tick for the processes and policies in place to create a more inclusive environment for people part of the LQBTQ+ community. nib CEO Rob Henin has said this accreditation is a result of implementing changes that accommodates all employees that are part of the rainbow community. nib has also been accredited with the Accessibility Tick in recognition of the work they have done to become more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities. 

“nib New Zealand (nib) has received the Rainbow Tick accreditation which recognises the steps nib has taken to create a more inclusive and supportive workplace for LGBTTQIA+ employees and allies.  

nib Chief Executive Officer, Rob Hennin, said over the past two years nib has been continually improving its internal policies and procedures to meet the Rainbow Tick standards. 

“To receive a Rainbow Tick accreditation is no small task, we listened to our employees made meaningful and continual changes to our workplace policies and practices to amplify the voices and experiences of our LGBTTQIA+ employees,” Mr Hennin said.

“We held a number of LGBTTQIA+ education sessions with our leaders and employees; updated our internal policies, recruitment practices, and external website to reflect rainbow-inclusive language; provided easy access to resources and support via our ‘Pride at nib’ employee-led group; and held various events for our people to attend, including our Wear It Purple Day virtual brunch,” he added. 

Rainbow Tick Programme Manager, José Taiapa, said that to be eligible to receive the Rainbow Tick, nib had to satisfy the five Rainbow standards: policies; employee training; employee engagement and support; external engagement and monitoring. 

“nib is an organisation with a big heart and this is reflected in the work they’re doing to ensure that people from LGBTTQIA+ communities can bring their whole selves to work. This kind of inclusivity is so important, understanding that there are still many people out there that don’t feel comfortable to express their sexual orientation or gender identity at work,” Mr Taiapa said.  

“Rob authentically leads by example and is in full support of this mahi. It is a credit to the leadership of nib that they have continued to act on the feedback from employees and, in such short time, embedded the rainbow inclusive principles and standards into their organisation and in some instances exceeded expectations,” Mr Taiapa said.  

In addition to the Rainbow Tick, nib recently received the Accessibility Tick in recognition of the steps nib is taking to overcome barriers to access for employees, members and travellers so they can thrive irrespective of any difference in ability.  

Managing Director of Accessibility Tick, Phil Turner, said the accessibility journey for organisations are a long-term commitment and this is a great first step for nib.

“nib should be proud of the commitment and action plan they have made for disability inclusion and accessibility. It shows nib is an organisation that embodies diversity and inclusion, committed to their people and the 24% of New Zealanders who are disabled,” Mr Turner said.

Mr Hennin said nib is committed to continuing to work alongside Accessibility Tick and Rainbow Tick to help create a workplace where all employees feel comfortable and empowered to work to the best of their ability.

“The work we’re doing in the diversity and inclusion space isn’t a ‘tick of the box’ practice, it’s cultural change that is embedded in our everyday practices and conversations and filtered from the top down. We still have a way to go, but I truly believe the journey to receive both the Rainbow Tick and Accessibility Tick has helped to lay the foundation for greater acceptance, understanding and support of our people and their diverse backgrounds across the nib Group,” Mr Hennin said.”

In other news

Cigna: Good things come in twos offer ends on 17 December

Financial Advice: The positive impact of advice on insurance reviews

From Good returns: CoFI adds more challenges to financial services

Legal and regulatory review for the life and health insurance industry

16 Aug 2021 - Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosures and Other Matters) Amendment Bill reported back from Parliamentary Select Committee.

13 Aug 2021 - Inland Revenue advised it is seeking public feedback on the proposed scope of the topics outlined for its 2022 long term insights briefing on tax, investment and productivity, with submissions closing on 6 September 2021.

11 Aug 2021 - The Takeovers Panel issued updated guidance on acceptance forms to recognise the phasing out of the use of cheques.

11 Aug 2021 – The Births, Deaths, Marriages, and Relationships Registration Bill completed its second reading in Parliament with the Minister for Internal Affairs inviting the Governance and Administration select committee to consider improvements to the self-identification process and to provide a further opportunity for public submissions. Relevant web links are and

12 Aug 2021 – ASIC released information outlining its approach to new laws reforming the Australian financial services sector.

They just want both their names on the forms in a way that makes sense

This is a fascinating article about a couple who just want to be able to put both their names on the incredible cluster of forms that swirl around when you have a baby. It really underlines, in some ways, how little progress has been made. But at least when challenged by journalists several of the relevant authorities have said that they will be making changes. Link: 

When we can't, or won't make our forms and processes describe people as they wish to be described, or see people as they see themselves, then we have to ask - are we deliberately excluding them? So a quick shout out to all those businesses that have flexible forms and questions phrased so that they include people.