Travel insurers have been discriminating against people with mental health conditions. Over just eight months we found that there were more than 365,000 discriminatory policies sold by some of Australia’s biggest travel insurers. Fair-minded cover is the report on our Investigation into mental health discrimination in the Australian travel insurance industry. In Victoria one in five people will experience a mental health condition every year. And for many people, with the
right support, this simply forms part of everyday life. But we do know that many people with mental health conditions experience discrimination and stigma. And particularly when trying to access services or employment, for example. We also know that discrimination is an issue when it comes to insurance. When it comes to insurance many people with mental health conditions find it difficult to find a policy that will cover them, or to be able to make a claim. In this investigation we looked at large Australian insurers who provide travel insurance. We looked at Suncorp, Allianz and World Nomads Group. They represent 37 per cent of the travel insurance industry in this country. We found that those three major insurers all had discriminated against people with mental health conditions when providing travel insurance. These policies included a blanket exclusion for people who are experiencing mental health conditions, whether currently or in the past. And
they didn’t look at the severity or the risk that was involved in providing
insurance for that type of condition. This meant that people who had experienced mental health conditions couldn’t claim on their policies even if it was the first time that they had experienced a mental health condition and irrespective of the nature or the severity of that condition. There is an exception under the Equal Opportunity Act that may have allowed insurers to limit the type of insurance that they were providing – if they had the statistical data to support that, or if they had clear reasons as to why they were limiting their insurance products. But they couldn’t show us that. The information was either poorly
explained or out of date and, in some cases, it was non-existent. Our recommendations from this Investigation require that insurers change the way they set their policies for people with mental health conditions. Compliance with the discrimination laws is mandatory, no matter the size of the insurer. And insurers need to do better to make sure that they are complying with the Equal Opportunity Act – just like any other law. When deciding how to insure people with a mental health condition insurers need to think beyond their bottom line. They need to be looking at evidence-based information. Information that’s relevant and information that’s up to date. Plus, they need to be developing different risk profiles for different mental health conditions, because not all mental health conditions are the same, and they need to account for those differences. We also recommended that insures specify certain types of mental health conditions that they can automatically cover – just as
they already do for different types of physical conditions – like asthma or pregnancy. And if a travel insurer decides not to insure someone or to reject a claim because of a mental health condition then they need to provide an explanation as to why to that person. Finally our recommendations also recognise the important role that peak bodies in the industry can play. We’ve recommended that there’s better training and a stronger, enforceable code of conduct. Australians are a nation of travellers. We often travel for adventure but we also travel out of necessity and we rely on insurance to support us when things go wrong. What this Investigation showed was that many people experiencing mental health conditions were treated unfairly and unlawfully when trying to access insurance. This investigation has also helped change that. Since we began, all of the insurance companies that we’ve involved in our Investigation have either changed their policies or
committed to change and this is a step towards making our community more equal, fairer and more inclusive. If you’ve experienced discrimination
from travel insurers you can make a complaint to the Commission. Our free, fair and timely dispute resolution service will help you to resolve your complaint. You can contact us on 1300 292 153 or via our website.