New Delhi: Observing that the right to life includes the right to health, the Delhi High Court has directed the insurance regulator to call a meeting of all insurance companies to design health insurance schemes for people with disabilities and introduce them preferably within two months.
The court also asked the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) to take immediate steps to modify the terminology "sub-standard lives" in their regulations to ensure that such "unacceptable terminology" is not used while referring to persons with disabilities.
Justice Pratibha M Singh said people with disabilities are entitled to health insurance cover and cannot be discriminated against.
"It is the settled position in law that the Right to Life includes the right to health and healthcare is an integral part of the same. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 leaves no ambiguity insofar as the entitlement of persons with disabilities for insurance. A perusal of Sections 3, 25 and 26 makes it clear that person with disabilities cannot be discriminated against insofar as healthcare and other connected aspects are concerned," said the court in a recent order.
"The IRDAI, shall call a meeting of all insurance companies to ensure that the products are designed for persons with disabilities and other persons in terms of the circular dated 2nd June, 2020. The process of designing such products shall be supervised by the IRDAI and it shall be ensured that the said products are introduced on an early date, preferably within two months," she said.
The court's order was passed on a petition by an investment professional who was confined to a wheelchair due to Tetraplegia that left him paralysed below the chest
He approached the court after two insurance companies refused to issue any health insurance policy to him.
The court said the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006 prohibits discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of health insurance and that in the present case the rejection of the petitioner's proposal by the insurance companies with cryptic rejection letters was disconcerting.
The court said irrespective of the economic standing of a person with disability, insurance coverage cannot be rejected or refused and asked the insurance providers to consider the case of the petitioner for issuance of a health insurance policy.
"This Court is of the opinion that there is no doubt that persons with disabilities would be entitled to health insurance coverage and products would have to be designed to enable them to obtain health insurance coverage," the court said.
It overserved that even under the regulatory framework insurance companies have to give insurance cover to persons with disabilities, persons with HIV as well as persons affected with mental illness and IRDAI ought to ensure that its circulars and other policies are duly given effect to by the insurance companies.
"The stand of IRDAI before this Court both in the Counter affidavit, Circular and in the oral submissions does not match with the inaction when the issue was brought to its notice. The IRDAI ought to have stepped up and ensured that the insurance companies offer adequate products for persons with disabilities," the court said.
"Refusal to issue a health insurance policy to the Petitioner ought to have been a warning bell to the IRDAI. Unfortunately, despite the above settled legal position and the IRDAI's position on record, there is a disconnect in implementation," it added.
The court sought a status report from IRDAI and insurance companies and listed the case for further hearing on March 17.
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