Insurance and older Australians

Author: Susan Ryan

Susan Ryan, Age Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, calls on insurers to design new, accessible and affordable products tailored to older Australians.

Whether they’re contributing to the workforce, volunteering their time, or travelling the world, older Australians are an active bunch and increasingly so. Yet all these activities may involve risk, and with risk comes the potential need for insurance.

In my role as Age Discrimination Commissioner, I hear many stories from older Australians who have had trouble securing affordable insurance or finding any suitable insurance product at all. A lack of insurance has limiting and negative effects for older Australians.

Income protection insurance often cuts out at age 65, yet many older Australians are capable and want to work well beyond that age.

It was announced in the recent budget that by 2035, Australians will not be eligible for the age pension until they turn 70, so working to that age will become the reality for many. Also, organisations that rely on volunteers buy group insurance, but it may not cover older volunteers. Travel insurance premiums increase with age, but it’s important that they are not so prohibitively high that older Australians would be tempted to travel uninsured.

Failing to provide insurance to older people or charging higher premiums is not necessarily unlawful discrimination. The Age Discrimination Act, which is the general protection that all people have against discrimination on the basis of age, has an exception for insurance. Insurers can discriminate based on age as long as the difference in treatment is based on actuarial or statistical data, or is otherwise reasonable.

Despite this exception, I have been making the case to the insurance industry that better, more accessible information about available insurance products should be provided. In addition, I can see a strong business case to be made to insurers to design new products that are tailored to seniors, and are accessible and affordable.

While the industry is considering these messages, the voice of older Australians who themselves are seeking a good deal on insurance products add to my advocacy. Older Australians can shop around for insurance and find the best product available to them.

Finally, if you think you have been discriminated against by an insurer, you are still able to make a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission, who can investigate and attempt to resolve your complaint.

You can get further information by calling 1300 656 419 or visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website.


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