Why a serious case of COVID could affect your insurance, even decades from now

Experts fear that Australians infected by COVID could one day be locked out or penalised when they seek life insurance as scientists continue to uncover the longer-term impacts of the virus.

Life insurers can already use so-called carve-outs for those with pre-existing conditions, which means the customer would not be protected if that specific health issue one day stops them from being able to work.

If applied to COVID-19 patients, particularly those living with long-term impacts, it could make them ineligible for life insurance claims that stem from a COVID infection decades earlier.

Such exclusions, if they eventually occur, would be unlikely to apply to those with an existing life insurance policy unless they make changes or move to a new insurer.

To Omicron and beyond

Jane Tiller from Monash University’s Public Health Genomics Program said when an insurer learnt that a would-be client had COVID in their youth, it could figure into their sums — even decades into the future.

“Because of the reports of long-term effects of COVID that we’re seeing come through there might be risks in people being able to get life insurance,” she said.

Woman with dark hair smiling
Jane Tiller says insurers can use evidence to support differential risk to discriminate.(Supplied: Jane Tiller)

Ms Tiller said there may also be risks if research eventually finds that some variants of COVID are more harmful than others.

“If it becomes possible to find out what variants you had, then it’s possible that they could try and distinguish between them,” she said.

“I’m concerned that perhaps we end up with a big divide between people who, through no fault of their own, no poor life choices, have been exposed to a serious pandemic virus.”

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