Hello Ron, my name is ***** ***** I am a solicitor in NSW who will help with your inquiry today. For the first time I have to say I disagree with Leon.
I myself have run litigation in the Australian Human Rights Commission against an insurer on the basis that I was excluded from income protection insurance because of a disability. The result was that in the concilation the insurer granted me the income protection insurance but agreed on an exclusion clause in my policy which is actually quite wide and query whether it was worth it for me to do, but my illness is such a difficult one that it's fair to say the clause would have been hard to draft anyway.
Discrimination on the basis of age is in the same category, meaning you can complain to the Australian Human Rights Commission. What you need to argue is that you have been directly discriminated against under section 14 of the Age Discrimination Act 2004. See here for the provision.
You need to relate the discrimination to a particular area of public life under the Act. The area under which insurers come are the provision of "goods, services and facilities", which you will find under section 28 of the Act.
The insurers will object on the basis that actuarial data says that people of a higher age are at a higher risk than others of fatal injury or illness or of permanent disability. However, insurers are supposed to either offer you different terms such as a higher premium or an exclusion clause or some other ameliorating factor in your particular policy. However, the only way to do it is to be dogmatic about it and pursue your rights in the Australian Human Rights Commission. It's a sad fact but true. It also makes it very difficult to change your insurer if you find one that has better terms in the future. But I say, worth fighting for.
The insurance industry is going to have to come around to recognising that they need more flexible policy arrangements but until they do, go to the AHRC.
You can also fight this under state law but as going through the federal laws wields a more threatening stick (because of the higher awards) you will get a better result.
One tip for the conciliation is though: don't be angry with the people on the other side of the table to you. They are just part of a process. Just relate to them how rejected you felt when you were denied the insurance. Be conciliatory, tell them all you want is a higher premium or an exclusion clause that you find satisfactory and you will get a better outcome.
I hope that has helped you today. I'll leave you with some comments that were recently emailed to me about mental illness and income protection policies, so you can see that others (namely PIAC) are helping people who are the subject of discrimination on the basis of disability, age, marital status etc in relation to insurance. Good luck.
]PIAC has called for insurers to take a fairer and more realistic approach to the risks involved with insuring the one in two Australians who will experience a mental disorder at some stage.
Many people with a history of mental illness are denied access to a range of insurance products, including life, travel and income protection. If cover is offered, it is often accompanied by higher premiums.
"PIAC’s Mental Health and Insurance Project, which is run in partnership with beyondblue, is helping many people who, as a result of experiencing mental health symptoms, have been treated unfairly and possibly unlawfully by insurance companies.
Listen to PIAC CEO, Edward Santow, on ABC Radio National’s ‘Breakfast show’.
Watch ABC 7:30’s story on Ella Ingram, a young Melbourne woman who is challenging an insurance company’s decision to reject her travel insurance claim after she was hospitalised with depression. Victoria Legal Aid is representing Ella in this very important discrimination case".