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Depression and life insurance
Do life insurance companies cover depression?
- Applicants who have had mild depression and have fully recovered for at least 1-2 years can expect standard premium rates.
- A loading may apply for serious or ongoing cases of depression.
It is still possible to take out life insurance in Australia if you suffer from depression. However, applicant's will be required to provide details of their condition at the time of application which may include;
- Nature of condition
- Period that symptoms have been experienced
- Any medication prescribed
- Other treatment
- Any impact on daily activities
What type of questions might be asked by my insurer?
- What are your symptoms of depression?
- Is there the presence of other mental health conditions other than depression?
- What could be the cause of the depression symptoms?
- When did you first experience symptoms and did they happen as a result of something specific?
- Have depression symptoms forced you take time off work or impacted your ability to perform work duties? Did you have to take less hours or sick leave as a result?
- Have depression symptoms affected your relationships with family or friends or reduced your ability socialise, eat, sleep or engage in physical activities?
- How many episodes of depression do you experience and how long do they typically last?
- Have you received treatment for this condition? If so, what type of treatment was given including counseling, medication or hospitalisation. What is the dosage of any medications taken for depression?
- If applicable, what is the name of the doctor, therapist or psychologist you have visited. Provide contact information.
- Are you still receiving treatment, and if not, what was the last date of treatment?
- Have you been hospitalised as a result of depression or depression symptoms?
- Have you contemplated or attempted suicide?
- Is there a history of depression in your family?
Discrimination against depression
There are cases of discrimination among insurance providers, reasoning that depression is easy to fake or not easily treatable. As such they are often exclude it from their cover.
Depression, a complex mental issue, is often generalised and put in the same category as schizophrenia, with no distinction made for level of severity or previous treatment, leaving hopeful applicants ineligible. Worse, those who have life insurance often find the claim process impossible as they learn too late that it is excluded from their cover. A recent survey made by Mental Health Council of Australia showed that out of 500 respondents suffering from depression, 45% were denied income protection and 35% denied life insurance cover.
The Health Council together with other medical organisations made a Memorandum of Understanding to improve the underwriting and claim process for depression and anxiety. This includes provisions concerning the close monitoring of complaints concerning this sort of discrimination.
How is depression assessed by insurance companies?
Because of the vigilance of organisations like the Mental Health Council of Australia, a lot of progress has been made and people suffering from depression and anxiety can now find life insurance cover despite their illness. Underwriters, wanting to lessen the risk as much as possible, will give you a standard-plus or preferred rating based on the following underwriting standard or basis for those with mental illness.
Taking out insurance if you have a history of depression requires:
- Control – If you are suffering from or diagnosed with depression, insurance providers want to have as much information how you are being treated and monitored by your physician. It includes the medication you are taking and in what stage of treatment you are in at the moment of application. They would also want to know whether you are following your doctor’s prescription to keep the depression under control.
- Compliance – Insurance providers are also concerned if you are complying with your doctor’s schedule for follow-through, how much dosage you are taking and how often you are taking the medication. Therefore, if you are thinking of getting life insurance and you have depression, follow your doctor’s orders.
- Complete medical record – Whether or not you are suffering from depression or another illness, your insurance provider will still request your medical records for reference - and it’s important that you disclose anything that might impact your insurance policy. Failure to disclose such details might lead to your ineligibility during claim time. On the other hand, giving as much necessary information as possible gives the impression that your depression is under control.
Should you be eligible for cover, insurance providers will generally draw up different life insurance terms for you based on their company policy. Possible terms you may be offered include a shorter contract term, higher premiums, or additional exclusions.
You have the right to ask for an explanation of the decision or seek cover from another company if you are unhappy with their rating. As regulations improve, it is becoming easier to find providers more than willing to provide cover for you, however, some requirements will still apply. As more and more insurance providers join in the industry, competition grows so does your opportunity to find cover despite your history of depression.
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