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QBE drops travel insurance mental health exclusions



QBE joins Cover-More and becomes the second travel insurer to remove its mental health exclusions.

From 1 July 2017 QBE Travel Insurance policies will cover cancellation and medical expenses due to a first diagnosis of a mental illness.

The removal of this general exclusion means that policyholders can lodge a claim if they suffer any losses arising directly or indirectly from the insured person or a member of the travelling party suffering a mental illness.

QBE also updated its definition of mental illness to provide policyholders with greater clarity.

When asked about the possibility of covering existing mental health issues a QBE spokesperson said, "Currently, QBE is unable to offer cover for pre-existing mental illness. QBE is committed to improving the way we do things for customers and will continue to work with the industry and medical professionals to obtain better access to more data on mental health. We’ll continue to invest in data and our capabilities to underwrite mental illness like any other medical condition."

The move from QBE comes almost a month after Cover-More updated its stance on mental illnesses. From 1 June 2017 Cover-More, underwritten by Zurich Australian Insurance Limited, dropped the mental illness exclusion from its travel insurance products in Australia and New Zealand.

According to Cover-More group chief executive officer Mike Emmett, this is just the beginning of a shift in the travel insurance industry.

“The cover for mental illness that we’ve introduced is a significant first step for Cover-More and Zurich. We recognise the critical importance of incorporating specific cover for people with mental health conditions into our policies. It’s something that the travel insurance industry, including us, has neglected for too long,” Emmett said.

A Cover-More spokesperson said that Cover-More is currently reviewing its cover of people with pre-existing mental illnesses. Mental health issues are on the rise in Australia, with roughly one in five people being affected each year.

Over the last four years, the amount spent on mental health services has increased by 10% to roughly $8.5 billion per year, according to research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The mental health exclusion for travel insurance has been a hot button topic, which gained mainstream media attention when Ella Ingram won her landmark case against QBE in 2015 over its refusal to pay a 2012 insurance claim relating to mental health.

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