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Should insurance companies ask about HIV on their application forms?

This article appeared in the herald last week about life insurance companies asking people on their life insurance application about their sexual behaviour with prostitutes. The question is typically asked in conjunction with the question about whether or not you may have HIV/AIDS. The article takes a swipe at insurance companies and sensationalises the issue.

Several NZ insurance companies and banks were asked their views on the matter and all defended the practice, as did the CEO of the Investment and Insurance Association (ISI).

So where do we stand on this? Is it reasonable to ask such questions on a life insurance application form or is it an invasion of one’s privacy?

Pinnacle Life handles this issue in a similar way to the other insurance companies.

The purpose of a life insurance application is to ask questions that relate to the risks of selling you a policy. If you do risky things like sky diving or deep scuba diving, you’d be offered a policy with an increased premium. Likewise if you are in a high-risk occupation like crop spraying. You’ll also pay more if you smoke or if you are morbidly obese. This is absolutely normal for life insurance. And to determine these things, you will be asked the appropriate questions on your application.

So what’s the problem with asking about HIV and about your lifestyle choices that increase your risk of contracting HIV. Sure it’s a sensitive matter for some people, but if you want life insurance, a life insurer needs to know what risks it is being asked to insure.

Until someone comes up with a better suggestion, I think this question will remain.

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