1. Insurance
    Based on the stories we've heard we believe many people with a current or past mental health problem are being discriminated against. In some cases just for seeing a counsellor.
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Our work to stop discrimination by insurance providers

Evidence suggests that people with a history of a mental health condition can experience difficulties obtaining insurance. Discriminatory practices include either refusal of insurance or denial of claims on the grounds of non-disclosure of a previous mental health condition.

Since 2002, beyondblue and Mental Health Australia (MHA) have been working to improve access to insurance, influence the industry to make changes to their policies and practices, and bring greater fairness to the insurance market. The aim of this work is to improve access for people who live with or experienced a mental health condition. Unfortunately, change has been slow to happen, and more needs to be done to get a fair deal for people living in Australia.

Find out more about our work

Taking action against discrimination

beyondblue and Mental Health Australia (MHA) are increasing awareness and advocating to address discrimination by insurance providers, and we need your support.

Achieving change right now is our goal. To do this we need as many people as possible to come forward and tell their stories about ways in which insurance companies may have discriminated against them because of their mental health condition.

beyondblue and MHA have repeatedly appealed to the insurance industry to change their practices towards people with mental health conditions who are denied coverage, charged higher premiums, or have their claim rejected for travel, income protection, total and permanent disability and life insurance. 

In 2015 beyondblue and MHA welcomed the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal’s finding that QBE discriminated against Ella Ingram, 21. The tribunal found that QBE discriminated against Ella twice. Firstly, when it issued her with travel insurance that excluded any coverage for mental health conditions and secondly, when QBE rejected her travel insurance claim when she was hospitalised with depression at the age of 17 and couldn’t go on a school trip to New York for which she had already paid.

Her case, presented by Victoria Legal Aid, was an Australian first and seen as a test of the lawfulness of insurance discrimination on the grounds of mental illness.

Ella made headlines when she challenged insurance giant QBE and went on to be named among BBC's 100 inspirational women. 

Policy submissions 

2016 submissions

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Development of the Consular Strategy 2017-19: Mental Health

In November 2016, beyondblue provided a submission to the Australian Government Consulate to support the development of their three-year strategy and advise on how to improve travel insurance coverage for people with mental health conditions. The recommendations include:

  • Formalising appropriate mental health training reflecting a staff member’s function and the degree of exposed risk.
  • Developing and prominently locating a specific webpage on the Smartraveller website detailing the implications of mental health for travel insurance coverage.
  • Supporting and advocating for the insurance industry to remove blanket mental health exclusions from travel insurance products.
  • Working with insurance companies to develop a travel insurance product that ensures people with mental health conditions are covered while travelling overseas.

Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services – Life Insurance Inquiry

In April 2015, beyondblue provided an extensive submission to the Senate Economic References Committee Inquiry - Scrutiny of Financial Advice – Life Insurance. This committee has ceased post-election and has been superseded by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporate and Financial Services Inquiry.

beyondblue’s submission draws on the hundreds of stories that have been shared by people who have experienced a mental health condition or poor mental health, to draw attention to the significant difficulties that people experience in obtaining and claiming on insurance products, and how such practices reinforce stigma. The submission makes recommendations to increase the availability and use of actuarial and statistical data, promote individual risk assessment, increase transparency and improve complaints processes and the enforcement of discrimination laws.

Australian Government Treasury - Review of the financial system external dispute resolution framework

In October 2016, beyondblue made a submission to the Australian Government Treasury in response to their Issues Paper – Review of the financial system external disputes resolution framework. This submission provides recommendations on how to improve the external dispute resolution framework for people engaging in the financial service sector. The focus of this submission is on the Financial Ombudsmen Service and how it could be improved to better support people with mental health conditions.

In December 2016, the Australian Government Treasury released Interim Report – Review of the financial system external dispute resolution and complaints framework on the same issue for consultation with more extensive recommendations for improvement. beyondblue identified areas for further comment in this report and has developed a second submission in response. 

Senate Economics References Committee – Inquiry into the Scrutiny of Financial Advice – Life Insurance

This submission by beyondblue to the Senate Economics References Committee outlines the significant challenges and issues that people with mental health conditions experience in accessing and claiming against insurance products in Australia, compared to the rest of the population. This includes outright refusal of coverage, increased premiums or excessive exclusions placed on policies. 

beyondblue is keen to work in collaboration with industry and government on concrete actions to change this so that insurers do not unfairly discriminate on mental health grounds and apply sound, effective and proportionate judgement to individual insurance policy applications and claims, based on robust, contemporary statistical and actuarial data.

Our research relating to discrimination by insurance providers

beyondblue and MHA conducted a survey examining the experiences of Australians living with a mental health condition, their friends and families when applying for insurance.

The survey, Mental health, discrimination and insurance: A survey of consumer experiences 2011, a first of its kind in Australia, revealed that people who have mental health conditions experience significant difficulty and discrimination when applying for insurance products and making claims against their policies.

The survey results highlight a need to better educate the insurance and financial planning sectors about mental health, and people, their family and friends about their rights and responsibilities.