Am I covered for mental health issues? Find out more about travel insurance and mental illness
Mental illness is a broad category that encompasses a variety of conditions including depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and stress. It is something of a grey area in insurance, with many insurers choosing not to cover it, or offering cover only under certain conditions. This guide takes a closer look at why it can be so hard to get insurance for pre-existing mental illness, and identifies which insurers may offer travel insurance for mental illness.
Who covers mental illness?
Many insurers will not cover claims related to mental illness, but there are some who offer varying degrees of cover. According to an investigation conducted by Choice, insurers include:
- Cover-More. On 1 June 2017, Cover-More removed their general exclusion for mental illness. In addition, they provide cover for travel amendment and cancellation, as well as medical expenses, if a traveller experiences a serious mental health condition for the first time, e.g. first onset anxiety or depression before they travel or while overseas. Pre-existing mental health conditions are not covered, and medical expenses are only covered if your condition is serious enough that you need professional support.
- QBE. 1 July 2017, QBE has updated its general exclusions by removing the mental health from the list. The update means that policyholders claim if they suffer any losses arising directly or indirectly from the insured or a member of the travelling party suffers a mental illness. It also updated its definition of a mental illness.
- CGU, BUPA and InsureandGo. These insurers class mental illness as a pre-existing medical condition. All such conditions are assessed individually and a higher premium may be payable if insurance is offered. First-time episodes are generally covered, as long as medical documentation is provided to support any claim.
- NRMA and Medibank. These insurers also class mental illness as a pre-existing condition and assess such conditions individually. First-time episodes of mental illness are not covered.
- AllClear. AllClear provide cover for mental illness but cover is dependent upon a medical screening process.
- Budget Direct and 1st for Women. There is no cover is provided if help has been sought for mental illness in the last five years, even if declared.
How much does it cost?
Those insurers who do cover mental illness will typically charge a higher premium, due to the higher perceived risk. But no two premiums are the same and how much you might pay can depend on the insurer, the type and severity of your mental illness and the usual factors that determine the cost of travel insurance which include:
- The level of cover you choose (benefit amounts etc)
- The options you select
- The destination you are travelling to
- Your age and general health
Difficulty in obtaining insurance
People who have or have had a mental illness can encounter difficulty in obtaining all kinds of insurance, not just travel insurance. In 2011, a national depression initiative by beyondblue and the Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA) surveyed a group of people with mental illness, all of whom had applied for various insurance products in the past. The participants were asked to indicate their level of agreement with the statement "It was difficult for me to obtain insurance because I have or have had a mental illness". Their most common response on a five-point scale (strongly agree, agree, neutral, disagree or strongly disagree) was strongly agree (35%).
How do insurers treat mental illness?
Important: Please note that the information contained in the table above about travel insurance for mental illness is correct as of 19/11/2015 and is subject to change.
What are pre-existing medical conditions?
For the purposes of travel insurance policies, a pre-existing medical condition might typically be defined as any medical condition that you are aware of and are taking medication for or have had treatment for in the past, including surgery. Many travel insurers have a list of pre-existing conditions they automatically cover. These conditions, such as asthma and diabetes, might generally be seen as "manageable" and perceived as a low risk to the insurer. Some forms of mental illness such as anxiety and depression may be listed in the product disclosure statement (PDS) as a condition that requires further assessment prior to the issue of a policy. In these cases you may be able to obtain cover by undergoing assessment and paying an additional premium. Insurers might also have a list of pre-existing conditions not covered under any circumstances. Unfortunately, mental illnesses may commonly feature on this list or in the general exclusions. If you’re looking for travel insurance for mental illness, one of the first places you might check is the PDS of different products or insurers, where the conditions relating to pre-existing medical conditions can often be found.
Australian counselling services for people suffering from mental illness
If you’d like some help or advice, whether insurance-related or otherwise, the following is a list of potentially useful links to organisations who may specialise in providing support to those dealing with mental illness.
Picture: Pictures of Money, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (image cropped) Picture: Shutterstock