Mental Health and Insurance Project

Ms. Sarah Morrison

Holding insurance of various kinds is the norm for many Australians. The ability to access insurance to protect against the financial risk of adverse unforseen events is seen as natural and of great social benefit.

Unfortunately many Australians with experience of mental illness are not afforded the same access to insurance products as the rest of the population. People with a history of mental illness can be forced to pay increased premiums, be excluded from cover from events that might be associated with their mental illness, and have applications and claims rejected outright on the grounds of mental illness. This continues to occur even where people with a history of mental illness present a modest or even a lower risk of making a claim compared with other insurance customers.

Mental Health Australia and beyondblue have been working to improve access to insurance and bring greater fairness to the insurance market since 2001. Over that time, and despite assurances from the insurance industry that change is needed and much discussion with governments and industry representatives, there has been very little progress.

We believe that people with a history of mental illness (and even people who insurance companies suspect could have an undiagnosed mental illness) are often unfairly refused access to a range of insurance products. We regularly hear stories about people having difficulties with life insurance, total and permanent disability insurance, income protection and travel insurance. In our view, these stories often suggest that insurers may be discriminating against people with experience of mental illness without a reasonable legal basis.

Some examples of the ways in which insurers may be discriminating against people with experience of mental illness are in an information sheet released by Mental Health Australia and beyondblue in August 2013.  This sheet provides information about what Mental Health Australia and beyondblue are doing to improve insurance outcomes and experiences for people with mental illness, including our call for consumers to come forward and tell us their stories about insurance and mental illness.

If you have had a negative experience with insurance, we encourage you to contact Laura Lombardo, a senior solicitor at the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (phone 02 8898 6526 or via email to [email protected]), who can provide you with free advice on your particular circumstances.

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