Mental health discrimination in the travel insurance industry is widespread, according to an investigation.
As a result, many companies are now changing policies.
Mental health discrimination uncovered by investigation
The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission conducted the eight-month investigation.
As a result, it found travel insurers sold 365,000 policies containing terms unlawfully discriminating against people with mental health conditions.
In response, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said:
“Being able to access insurance equitably is an important part of travelling.
“We found that for many people with mental health conditions, travel insurance was either not available or could not be claimed.”
Major companies involved
The Commission’s Fair-minded cover report details the findings of the investigation.
The report investigated several insurers, including Allianz, Suncorp and World Nomads Group, which together represent 37 percent of Australia’s travel insurance industry.
Consequently, it found each of the three insurers unlawfully discriminated against people with mental health conditions.
“Their policies included a blanket exclusion, which meant that people who experienced mental health conditions weren’t covered,” Hilton said.
“They also didn’t adequately recognise different types of mental health conditions and their risk or severity.”
Companies must provide data before limiting insurance
The Equal Opportunity Act states companies are legally allowed to limit insurance by providing statistical data or reasons to support their decision.
However, the Commission says none of those investigated could adequately explain this to the investigation.
Investigation ‘a catalyst for change’
Hilton says the investigation is an important step in reducing discrimination in the community.
“It’s a catalyst for change,” she said.
As a result of the investigation, insurers that took part have therefore removed blanket mental health exclusions from their policies.
Additionally, the companies agreed to address the Commission’s recommendations, for example, how they “offer and indemnify pre-existing mental health conditions”.
“When deciding how to insure people with mental health conditions, insurers need to think beyond their bottom line,” Hilton said
Not all mental health conditions are the same
Industrial relations advocate Miles Heffernan from Discrimination Claims praised the Commission’s work.
“Firstly, the Commission is to be congratulated as a result of its extensive investigation into this issue,” he said.
“Secondly, for the results it achieved.
“Several companies are changing policies to make them fair to people with mental health issues.
“Additionally, not all mental health conditions are the same, and insurance companies need to not be so lazy with blanket discriminatory bans.”
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