A new insurance scheme was launched today for people infected with Hepatitis C or HIV through contaminated blood products.
The new scheme, first announced last year, will allow people to take out life insurance, mortgage protection and travel insurance.
It is understood around 3,300 people have initiated claims against the state over the infection – ultimately the bill is expected to hit €1.1bn.
Minister for Health, Mary Harney said the insurance scheme was an important measure in supporting victims.
“The infection of people with contaminated blood products was catastrophic for them,” the minister said.
“This new scheme is an important measure to provide further support to people diagnosed with Hepatitis C and HIV as a result of contaminated blood products being administered to them within the state.
“Since 1997, it has been clear that the inability of these people to buy life assurance or mortgage protection policies added further problems to the damage they had already suffered.”
The Lindsay Tribunal found about 250 people had been infected with HIV or hepatitis C as a result of contaminated blood products used for the treatment of haemophilia.
Separately, about 1,600 women were infected with the hepatitis C virus as a result of receiving contaminated anti-D blood products.
All these people have either been denied, or faced major difficulties securing insurance on mortgages, life policies or even travel cover.
The Health Service Executive said each policy will cost the average premium an uninfected person of the same age/gender pays. The new scheme will pay additional premiums levied or cover the additional risks that would otherwise prevent a policy being taken out.
Inability to get affordable insurance, or any insurance, has long been recognised as a barrier to normal living and working for those infected.
This scheme is the first of its kind anywhere.
“This scheme will have a very positive impact on the lives of those infected as it will ensure that they can take out life or mortgage insurance in much the same way as anybody else,” said John Dwyer, scheme administrator.
“This in effect means that they and their families will now have greater security and peace of mind into the future.”
The scheme runs for a 12-month open period after which applications for mortgage protection and life assurance will be subject to restrictions.