Currently, the AODA does not have a healthcare standard. A committee is making recommendations about what a healthcare standard should include. Our recent articles have considered how the healthcare standards can build on requirements from the AODA’s existing standards. Now, we will explore new mandates that the healthcare standards could create. One mandate could implement guidelines for insurance companies assessing applications from candidates with disabilities. Disability guidelines for insurance companies would give more people opportunities for insurance.
Disability Guidelines for Insurance Companies
Insurance companies provide or deny people’s applications based on levels of risk from any health conditions they have. For instance, companies may charge more to someone who smokes because smoking is a risk that person has chosen to take. However, providers may also charge more, or deny applications, if people have disabilities. For instance, they may feel that someone with a physical or mental disability lives with greater risk than someone without a disability.
In some cases, insurance providers’ concerns are valid. However, some providers may falsely believe that every-day activities are more risky for people with physical or sensory disabilities than for people without disabilities. Similarly, providers may think that people with mental health conditions also run greater risk. As a result, they may feel that most customers with disabilities cannot be eligible for insurance. Disability guidelines for insurance companies would remove these misconceptions.
What do disability guidelines for insurance applications have to do with healthcare?
When people apply for insurance, they must disclose any health conditions they have. For instance, if someone receives medical treatment for a mental illness such as depression, they must disclose this condition to their possible insurance provider. However, people could fear that the disclosure of treatment could be a factor leading to denial of their applications. Therefore, people may choose not to seek treatment for a condition, so that they will not be identified as people who live with more risk.
There are many disabilities that people may suspect that they have, but choose not to be diagnosed with. These disabilities are often invisible, meaning that others do not know about them if people who have them do not disclose. For instance, some invisible disabilities that people might suspect that they have are:
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Hyperactivity Disorder (HD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
- Heart or lung conditions
- Learning disabilities, such as dyslexia
- Mental health challenges, such as anxiety disorders
- Neuropathy (reduced sense of touch)
In addition, people may also experience difficulty with their balance, coordination, motor skills, energy levels, or ability to walk or stand for long periods of time. When people seek treatment for these conditions, they gain access to supports the province offers to people with disabilities. For instance, people diagnosed with a disability can receive employment accommodations that can make the difference between staying in the work force and unemployment. Similarly, people who may want or need to stop driving because of disability can access specialized transportation services. Treatment, or other acknowledgement of disability, can also improve people’s quality of life, including family and social relationships.
What could disability guidelines for insurance companies look like?
A healthcare standard could create insurance-related mandates that would encourage more people to seek medical treatment and disclose disabilities. For instance, a standard could mandate intensive disability training for insurance providers working in Ontario. Ideally, people with disabilities could lead this training. They could discuss what activities or lifestyle factors are truly increased risks for people with different disabilities. In addition, if risks do exist, trainers with disabilities may have ways of reducing them that an insurance provider has not thought of.
Moreover, training could include factors that reduce risks. For instance, an applicant with a mental illness who takes medication or receives regular treatment may be at less risk than a person with the same degree of illness who does not receive regular treatment. This training could help providers develop assessment criteria that more accurately predicts the risks of insuring people with various disabilities. In this way, providers assessing individuals would be prepared to ensure more people with disabilities. Consequently, more people with disabilities would feel able to access supports they need to live full lives.