Banks Royal Commission should consider mental health insurance discrimination

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre has supported calls by Llew O’Brien, Member for Wide Bay, for mental health discrimination by insurance providers to be examined as part of any Royal Commission into the financial services industry.

For years, PIAC has been working with beyondblue, Mental Health Australia and Victoria Legal Aid to get insurance companies to improve their policies for the many Australians with mental health conditions.

PIAC has assisted over 130 clients who have been treated unfairly and in many cases unlawfully by insurance companies as a result of experiencing mental health symptoms.

Discriminatory practices and policies are particularly prevalent in relation to life, income-protection, total and permanent disability and travel insurance.

PIAC’s clients have faced hefty additional premiums, blanket exclusions or been denied cover altogether as a result of disclosing a mental illness or a history of mental illness, including short episodes of anxiety or depression.

‘While we have recently seen some improvements in a few travel insurance policies, unfair, discriminatory practices by the insurance industry are still widespread in Australia,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.

‘We expect insurers to make assessments based on a genuine assessment of the risk profile of people seeking insurance. However, we are concerned that the decisions made by insurers in relation to mental health conditions continue to be based on out-dated generalisations, and not fair assessments of individual circumstances.

‘Almost half the population will experience a mental health condition at some point. This on-going discrimination only perpetuates the stigma associated with mental illness and may deter people from seeking treatment.

‘We welcome calls for any Royal Commission into banking, finance and insurance industries to examine this issue,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.

MEDIA CONTACT: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce: 0478 739 280.

Image by Pictures of Money is licensed under CC by 2.0.

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