PIAC’s submission to the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has highlighted widespread, systemic discrimination by insurers on the basis of mental health.
PIAC has been working with beyondblue, Mental Health Australia and Victoria Legal Aid for a number of years to get insurance companies to improve their policies for the many Australians with mental health conditions.
Discriminatory practices and policies are particularly prevalent in relation to life, income-protection, total and permanent disability and travel insurance.
PIAC’s clients have been automatically refused cover, had their claims declined or faced unreasonably broad exclusions and hefty additional premiums as a result of disclosing a mental illness or a history of mental illness, including short episodes of anxiety or depression.
‘Our casework has uncovered widespread discrimination by insurers against people with mental health conditions. Decisions continue to be made on the basis of out-dated generalisations and unfair assessments of individual circumstances’, said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.
‘Last year we saw 7 major travel insurers change their policies to remove blanket mental health exclusions. This was a major breakthrough, but the industry has been slow to respond and more changes are needed, particularly in the life insurance industry,’ said PIAC CEO, Jonathon Hunyor.
‘So far, no government inquiry has conducted a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the industry wide systemic issues set out in this submission. The Royal Commission is ideally placed to conduct an inquiry and to make recommendations for reform.’
‘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 discourages people people from seeking support and treatment,’ said Jonathon Hunyor.
PIAC’s submission, which includes case studies, is available here.
Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280