The Senate is considering a treaty that, if ratified, might prohibit insurers from considering an individual's disabilities when providing individuals with life insurance or health insurance.
Members of the Senate voted 61-36 in favor of a motion to discuss the treaty in an executive session.
Countries that adopt the treaty, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, are supposed to agree to "prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of health insurance, and life insurance where such insurance is permitted by national law, which shall be provided in a fair and reasonable manner," according to Article 25(e).
The treaty also could affect the sales of annuities and other retirement savings products and programs.
Countries that comply with the treaty are supposed to "ensure equal access by persons with disabilities to retirement benefits and programmes."
Other provisions require countries to work to provide habilitation services for people with disabilities at the earliest possible stage, and to help people with disabilities and their families who are living in poverty "with disability-related expenses, including adequate training, counselling, financial assistance and respite care."
The United Nations began getting countries to sign the treaty in March 2007. The UN says that 154 countries have signed the treaty and that 126 have ratified the treaty.
Korea ratified the treaty in 2008 but included a reservation on the provision regarding the life insurance discrimination provision in Article 25(e).
Spain has objected to Korea's reservation, saying that the reservation is formulated in such a way that it does not clearly indicate how much Korea has accepted the obligations under the life insurance discrimination provision.
Australia ratified the treaty in 2008, but it said it would not let the treaty affect the health requirements it applies to non-nationals who seek to enter or remain in Australia.
Australian officials have said that they believe that Article 25(e) lets a country permit a life insurance to use information about a disability in underwriting "if the discrimination is reasonable: based on actuarial or statistical data and other relevant factors; or, where no such actuarial or statistical data is available, based on any other relevant factors,"according to a government treaty analysis.
This article was updated to include an Australian interpretation of the treaty.