New Bill to ease access to mortgage and insurance for cancer survivors
A new Bill to be brought before the Seanad today will aim to ensure cancer survivors are not denied access to financial products like mortgage protection and insurance due to their medical history.
A past cancer diagnosis can cause difficulty for some people when it comes to accessing financial products and services, even if they were diagnosed as a child or teen.
Research from the Irish Cancer Society and Core Research has shown that nearly a quarter of people affected by cancer report not being able to even get a quote for a range of financial products and services due to a diagnosis at some point in their lives. Almost half feel that insurers are difficult to deal with.
This group is over three times more likely to have difficulty purchasing insurance than the general population, and over twice as likely to experience problems in getting a mortgage.
The Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2022 will be brought forward by Senator Catherine Ardagh (Fianna Fáil) and co-signed by Senators Jerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) and Paul Gavin (Sinn Féin) on behalf of the Oireachtas Cross Party Group on Cancer, which includes members from the Green Party, Labour, Social Democrats and the People Before Profit–Solidarity Group.
The Bill, which will seek to revise current legislation, outlines that a person seeking access to financial services will no longer have to declare a cancer diagnosis five years after finishing active treatment. The move is supported by the Irish Cancer Society.
Commenting on the Bill, Senator Ardagh said: “I am delighted that The Central Bank (Amendment) Bill 2022 legislating for the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ is getting its first reading today. This is the first piece of legislation published by the Cross Party Group on Cancer and something that so many cancer survivors have been waiting for. The Right to be Forgotten legislation is not something new. European countries have been leading on this issue ensuring no cancer survivors should be penalised financially when accessing financial products.”
Irish Cancer Society Director of Advocacy Rachel Morrogh said: “No cancer patient should be financially penalised for having survived cancer. Imagine being a survivor of a childhood cancer and years later being denied what many consider to be rites of passage to adulthood such as getting a mortgage, getting life insurance and even travelling abroad.
“Survivors feel that they are being punished for their past diagnosis through hefty premiums and, in some cases, denial of cover. The Irish Cancer Society has previously called for legislative action rather than self-regulation by the insurance industry, which it considers to be too weak a tool to address the difficulties currently experienced by cancer survivors.
“The publication of today’s Bill is a welcome step in the right direction towards the fairer treatment of people impacted by cancer, and we are optimistic that it will receive the support of all parties as it goes through the Houses, thanks to the Cross Party Group on Cancer which is backing this legislation.”
Passage of the Bill would see Ireland become the latest EU country to ensure the Right to be Forgotten beyond cancer alongside France, Portugal and the Benelux countries.
The move has been welcomed by cancer survivors, including 26-year-old PhD student Sam Russell who was treated for thyroid cancer in 2020.
“As someone living with thyroid cancer, I know I will go on to live a healthy life as outcomes for this condition are excellent.
"I don’t have life insurance and I’ll need mortgage protection in the coming years when I go to buy a house, but at the moment I have no certainty as to whether I’ll be offered coverage when that point comes,” said Sam from Naas, who added that he has contemplated the possibility of emigrating in future if necessary so that he can own a home.
“It will be a roll of the dice, and it’s unfair as I’m being punished for something that’s not my fault. It’s a problem I wouldn’t have to face in other countries, and it seems like such an easy fix to me. Cancer survivorship is on the rise and I still have a full life to live, so it’s not good enough that people such as myself will continue to be denied fair access for something so important.”
Oireachtas Cross Party Group on Cancer membership: Senator Catherine Ardagh (Chair); Deputy Ivana Bacik; Deputy Colm Burke; Deputy Gino Kenny; Deputy Neasa Hourigan; Deputy Róisín Shortall; Deputy John Lahart; Minister Dara Calleary; Deputy Johnny Guirke; Deputy David Cullinane; Deputy Alan Kelly; Deputy Thomas Pringle; Senator Annie Hoey; Senator Erin McGreehan.