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Should life insurers be entitled to demand sensitive files from doctors?

The Sunday Star Times ran an article today entitled “Insurers demand sensitive files from doctors”. So did Yahoo/Xtra News.

Interesting question highlighted by these articles... is it appropriate for an insurer to seek all your medical records from your doctor?

Well...no.

When you apply for life insurance you’ll answer several questions on the application form about your health, your lifestyle, occupation and pastimes. The reason for this is that insurers have to assess what risk they face if they cover your life. The stakes are usually high – life cover for hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes millions.

If you indicate you have health issues, then the insurer may need more information – and the most reliable source of this information is the medical file held by your doctor. It is therefore entirely appropriate for the insurer to ask for the medical records relating to the medical condition you highlighted. Based on these records, the insurer can fairly assess the risk and offer you a policy at an appropriate price.

However, asking for all your medical records, including records that don’t pertain to the medical condition you highlighted, is in my view an invasion of privacy - and not justified. And asking for a "5-year history of patient's medical records" as one insurer indicated is also not on.

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