The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has called for insurers to take a fairer and more realistic approach to the risks involved with insuring the one in two Australians who will experience a mental disorder at some stage.
Many people with a history of mental illness are regularly denied access to a range of insurance products including life, travel and income protection. If cover is offered to these people, it is often accompanied by higher premiums or people may have their claims rejected because of their illness.
‘PIAC’s Mental Health and Insurance Project, which is run in partnership with beyondblue, is helping many people who, as a result of experiencing mental health symptoms, have been treated unfairly and possibly unlawfully by insurance companies,’ said PIAC CEO Edward Santow.
‘PIAC has helped more than 60 individuals in this situation, and we think they are just the tip of the iceberg. This leaves many people unable to protect themselves against some of the biggest financial risks in life.
‘Problems are most commonly occurring with applications and claims for income protection insurance, but we are also assisting people who have had problems with life and total disability insurance, as well as travel insurance.
‘In one case, a policy was cancelled after our client made a claim relating to their diagnosis with a serious illness. The policy was cancelled by the insurer on the basis that our client hadn’t disclosed seeing a psychologist when they applied for the insurance, despite never having been diagnosed with a mental illness, and despite there being no connection between the purported mental illness and the client’s claim.
‘Given that mental illnesses are common and can be well managed, we believe insurers should make a more accurate assessment of the true risks involved.
‘The insurance industry needs to apply a common-sense approach to the risks involved in insuring people who have sought help or treatment for mental health issues. We don’t want people to be discouraged from seeking essential treatment because they are worried about the risk that their insurer will not treat them fairly,’ said Edward Santow.
MEDIA CONTACT: PIAC Media and Communications Officer, Gemma Pearce: 0478 739 280.