Liz Fenton, who has had MS for the past 23 years, said the caveat inserted by Ark Life, that “No benefit shall be payable under this policy for any illness or disability arising directly or indirectly as a result of Multiple Sclerosis,” amounted to a refusal to insure her daughter, because it opened the way for the insurance company to refuse payment on grounds far broader than MS.
Mrs Fenton, who lives in Fermoy, Co Cork, said the exclusion would render life assurance cover useless.
“It says no benefit will be payable for any illness or disability arising directly or indirectly as a result of MS. But what does that mean? You either have MS or you don’t. What illness or disability are they talking about?”
The caveat was included in the company’s acceptance terms as part of the AIB Lifeline (life assurance) Plan, the bank to which Mrs Fenton’s daughter applied for a mortgage.
Mrs Fenton said her daughter, who did not want to be named, was astonished at the exclusion because she is a nurse and was aware that MS had not been proven to be hereditary. Neither Mrs Fenton’s family nor her husband’s have any previous history of MS.
Spokesperson for the Multiple Sclerosis Society Maura McKeon said a number of members were facing similar problems in trying to get life assurance.
“We have had a number of other cases of people with MS having problems getting payouts under serious illness cover. One person who had vertigo four years ago was told it was a sign of MS and that the company was not going to pay out.”
Ark Life marketing manager Bernard Lynch said the company had not refused the woman cover, but had inserted a caveat because of the woman’s family history.
“We didn’t not offer her cover, we just put down the exclusion to protect ourselves. The situation is that where there is family-related illness, it does come into play in deciding whether or not we can provide full cover to the applicant. The case here is related to family history.”
Mr Lynch said the company had to take into account the statistical possibility of the applicant developing a condition already in the family.
He said the caveat was included instead of upping the premium.
Jennifer Hoban, life assurance manager for the Irish Industry Federation, said there was always an element of discrimination when applicants weren’t in good health.
She also said that under the Equal Status Act 2000, there was a provision which allowed insurance companies to discriminate between individuals where there was statistical evidence that the applicant may be high risk.