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HRC review highlights more issues

A review of how human rights laws affect insurance has highlighted some tricky legal conundrums for the industry.

Friday, December 14th 2007, 1:15PM

by Rob Hosking

The review was initiated after concerns the industry could be discriminating against some people, particularly those with some form of mental illness.

The Human Rights Commission (HRC), which conducted the review, has reported that the industry is in fact not doing too badly.

However, the report raises some other issues.

The most pertinent is whether the offshore reinsurers are covered by New Zealand human rights legislation.

The commission has concluded they are not - and that is going to make life awkward, says Investment Savings and Insurance chief executive Vance Arkinstall.

"It's never been entirely clear whether reinsurers come under the Human Rights Act, but now the commission has made it very clear they think reinsurers are exempt, on the basis they are offering service to the insurance company, not individuals."

"That raises some serious issues and puts us out-of-step with the rest of the world."

What that is likely to mean is reinsurers can refuse to cover certain conditions for certain people – but the New Zealand insurer would have to cover the risk entirely themselves.

Rob Hosking is a Wellington-based freelance writer specialising in political, economic and IT related issues.

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