Travel insurance industry investigation finds ‘widespread’ mental health discrimination

A major investigation into the travel industry by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission has exposed ‘widespread’ unlawful discrimination when it comes to covering mental health in travel insurance policies

The commission’s Fair-minded cover report revealed that in an eight-month period from July 2017 to April last year, Australian insurers sold over 365,000 travel insurance policies that contained blanket mental health exclusions.

What does “mental health exclusions” mean?

Despite mental health affecting 1 in 5 Aussies, having mental health excluded from an insurance policy means Aussies can’t make a claim if their trip is affected by mental illness, whether it’s pre-existing or not. 

Therefore, anything from a mild episode of depression or anxiety to all psychiatric, mental, nervous, emotional incidents are considered at the same level. Mozo found at the time of research that 48% of insurers considered a mental health condition as being ‘pre-existing’ simply if there were ‘signs and symptoms’ of the condition. For example, a trip to a therapist in the past could be enough to exclude you from cover.

Big name Australian travel insurers involved in the investigation

Three big name Australian travel insurers, Allianz, Suncorp and World Nomads Group (WNG) were particularly under the microscope after the commission found they discriminated against people with mental health conditions.

The good new sis, since the investigation, these insurers, which make up 37% of the Australian travel insurance market, have already removed, or are working towards removing blanket mental health exclusions from their travel insurance policies.

Driving change within the insurance industry

With so many Aussies facing many kinds of mental health conditions every day, the commission is pushing for a change within the industry. 

“Despite finding widespread discrimination against people with a mental health condition in the travel insurance industry, the Investigation revealed an industry that is ready to change, and that has already taken positive steps to better understand mental health conditions and improve industry policy and practice,” the report stated. 

Beyond the travel industry, the report also highlighted an important message for insurance of all kinds. By working “together to address discrimination as a shared responsibility”, it revealed there could be big a push for positive change in the industry. 

The report highlighted lessons from the investigation including: 

  • The need to listen to consumer experience.
  • The need for better use and analysis of data.
  • The need for stronger regulation.
  • The need for better education and support.

What can I do about mental health and travel insurance?

If you’re heading overseas, having a travel insurance policy is a must. In light of these findings, it might be trickier to find the right cover if you’re dealing with mental health problems, but there are a few things you can do:

  • Get in contact with your travel insurer and don’t forget to read the fine print: find out what cover they provide for mental health conditions and what could mean a claim is rejected. Knowing ahead of time will help you not only find the right policy, but also make a successful claim if you ever have to. 
  • If your travel insurer says they don’t cover your mental health condition: the Equal Opportunity Act holds insurers accountable for eliminating discrimination as much as possible and they should give you a valid reason for why they won’t offer cover. 
  • Find the right travel insurance for you: even in the case of not getting cover for your mental illness, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you won’t be able to take advantage of the other benefits of travel insurance, so you should still always take out a policy before travelling. Head over to our travel insurance hub for a range of travel insurance options.