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A database that is shared by more than 20 insurance companies has raised questions over privacy rights and concern over just what confidential information is held and used when dealing with claims.

An expert believes that it could violate privacy rights, which are often written away with the signing of a consent form.

The former chief executive officer of Life Offices' Association (LOA), Gerhard Joubert, raised this after he said he followed closely the case of Denise Ganas whose late husband Nathan's life policy claim was declined by insurance giant Momentum. The claim was declined after Nathan Ganas was gunned down in an attempted hijacking in his driveway.

Momentum cited Ganas's medical records of “raised blood sugar levels” as non-disclosure which resulted in the payment being declined.

LOA was the forerunner to the current Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (Asisa), which represents the insurance industry.

This week, Joubert said applications for life insurance generally include a clause that reads “the applicant gives consent that personal information may be stored processed and shared”, or similar wording. This is often included in the terms & conditions of the policy or as a separate consent form.

Once an application is signed, this allows the insurance company to share the information on the Life & Claims Register, of which 22 insurance com- panies are currently members.

Joubert said: “Little do we know about the extent of the sharing of medical data between life insurance companies. All the major life companies who are Asisa members participate in the Life & Claims Register which provides 'red flags' to other insurers, who can then contact each other to find out the exact details of your medical conditions.

“One does not know exactly what is disclosed in the database or such discussions, but it will be about your medical information for underwriting and claims purposes - and a general assessment of your likelihood to claim.”

He said light needed to be shed on the database, because “concern about the right to privacy is an international one, especially where medical data of people is made available to such a large group of companies and people.

“I would urge the public not to sign these consents and insist that any personal data about you is made available to you, directly at request,” said Joubert.

The Saturday Star