Too many people are being denied insurance because of a history of mental illness, BeyondBlue says.
BeyondBlue CEO Georgie Harman said people who sought help for a mental health condition could encounter trouble when claiming or applying for life insurance, income protection or travel insurance.
She told 774 ABC Melbourne’s Rafael Epstein that BeyondBlue had collected “many, many case studies” where people had been denied cover, had claims denied or had broad exclusions applied to their policies because of a current or past mental health condition.
“They have filled in their application form for travel insurance, and they may have gone to see a marriage councillor 10 years ago,” Ms Harman said.
“They don’t even have a diagnosis of a mental health condition, and their insurance application is denied.
“There is just no logic to that.”
Ms Harman said that while it was impossible to tell exactly how many people have been affected, BeyondBlue has worked on the issue for a decade.
“I don’t think that we have got the evidence that it is improving,” she said.
BeyondBlue assist people with legal advice over the issue with the help of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.
She said she understood insurance companies needed to make a profit, but would like to sit down with industry representatives and work through the issue.
“What we are concerned about is the lack of transparency,” Ms Harman said.
“We really want to work with the insurance industry and find a solution, so that we can go away and focus on other things.”
The Insurance Council and the Financial Services Council were contacted for comment.
Industry-wide guidelines in place, Ombudsman says
Dr June Smith, lead ombudsman for investments and advice at Financial Ombudsman Services Australia, said people must disclose any medical conditions that may be relevant when applying for insurance.
“There are industry-wide guidelines relating to mental health conditions that have been developed by the life insurance industry in conjunction with the mental health sector,” she said.
“We would expect that very few applicants would be turned down just on the basis of a history of a mental health condition.
“There are circumstances where insurance companies may decide they are unable to offer any cover.
“They are not able to discriminate against someone on the basis of their mental health condition.”
She said that of the 31,800 cases her office dealt with in the 2014/15 financial year, 1,400 included life insurance disputes involving a mental health condition.
She advised anyone whose insurance company was being unreasonable to contact her office, the Insurance Law Service or the Human Right and Equal Opportunity Commission.