1. Ella Ingram on insurance discrimination
    Why not send a message to insurance companies that discrimination is not OK and mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatised.
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Taking action to stop discrimination by insurance providers

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

Together we 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.

People continue to approach us claiming to have been treated unfairly. Many have been confronted with higher premiums and more exclusions on their insurance policies and, in many cases, have been refused cover or had claims rejected. They may have experienced psychological distress for short-term life situations such as financial or relationship difficulties. They could have symptoms that have not returned for many years, or may no longer require treatment.

We will continue to call on insurers to ensure they are using contemporary evidence and data, and considering individual circumstances, instead of making broad assumptions about a person's ability to function and, therefore, their risk to insure.

Tell us your story

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 experience of a mental health condition.

beyondblue and MHA have developed an information sheet which provides information about our work in this space and how you can get involved.

If you think you may have experienced potential discrimination by an insurance company as a result of a mental health condition, we encourage you to tell your story.

Tell your story to the Royal Commission

A Royal Commission is currently being held into misconduct in the banking, superannuation and financial services sector. beyondblue believes the Royal Commission is ideally placed to thoroughly and transparently examine the issue of insurance discrimination, and make recommendations that could finally deliver fairer outcomes for consumers.

We encourage you to make a personal submission to the Royal Commission. By getting as many people as possible to share their stories, this will help to bring this issue to the attention of the Commission, and will greatly assist beyondblue's advocacy to stop discrimination by insurance providers.

  • The Commission is currently accepting submissions via an online form


What is a Royal Commission?
A Royal Commission is the highest form of inquiry into matters of great public importance. In Australia, a Royal Commission is created by the Governor-General, on the advice of the government. The government develops the terms of reference for the Commission, but the Commission then acts independently of government to inquire into issues relevant to the terms of reference. This may include researching an issue, consulting with experts, and conducting public consultations and hearings. A Royal Commission has considerable powers; similar to those of a court or judge. The Commission releases a final report with findings and recommendations to the government.

Isn’t this Royal Commission only about the banks?
Banks make up a large part of our financial services industry, and have certainly been the focus of the Royal Commission to date. However, the terms of reference state that the Commission has the authority to inquire into conduct within the financial services industry, which may include banks, insurance companies, superannuation providers or financial advisors.

Why does beyondblue think that the Royal Commission should examine the issue of mental health and insurance?
beyondblue has long advocated for the insurance industry to change their policies and practices to improve access to insurance for people who have experienced a mental health condition. Unfortunately, change has been slow to happen, and we continue to hear negative experiences of the insurance industry from everyday Australians affected by depression and anxiety. We believe the Royal Commission is ideally placed to thoroughly and transparently examine this issue, and make recommendations that could finally deliver fairer outcomes for consumers.

I am not sure what changes I would like the Royal Commission to recommend. What could I say?
You may have your own ideas about what changes you would like to see. If you are a bit unsure or would like to read more about what changes beyondblue is calling for, then please take a look at our previous policy submissions. Some of the changes that beyondblue would like to see include:

  • Removal of broad and blanket mental health exclusion clauses within insurance policies.
  • An independent body or study be established to examine the data used by the insurance industry in relation to mental health.
  • Insurers undertake better individual risk assessment of people who disclose mental health conditions, which takes account of the full range of both risk and protective factors.
  • People are provided with clear reasons, and the relevant actuarial and statistical data relied on, when they are refused coverage or have a claim denied.
  • Improved complaints processes including reduced timeframes for internal dispute resolution and the introduction of penalties; streamlined processes and coordination across complaints bodies; and public reporting of insurance complaints.

When will the Royal Commission report back?
The Commissioner has been asked to submit an interim report no later than 30 September 2018, and will provide a final report by 1 February 2019.

Can the Royal Commission assist me with my dispute with an insurance company?
The Royal Commission cannot resolve individual disputes, award compensation or make other orders against an insurer. If you have a complaint about an insurance policy or claim, or wish to appeal a decision made by an insurance company, you can find information about the options available to you in our fact sheet.

Landmark win for former schoolgirl who stared down the insurance giant 

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. 

What else can you do to take action? 

If you have a complaint about an insurance policy or claim, or wish to appeal a decision made by an insurance company, there are several options available: 

  • Lodge a complaint or appeal with the insurance company's customer complaints section, seeking a review of their decision.
  • If contacting the insurance company directly does not lead to a satisfactory resolution of your complaint, you can make a complaint to the relevant industry complaints body. This would most likely be one of the following:

    If you believe you may have been discriminated against because of your experience of a mental condition, you can make a complaint of disability discrimination to one of the following:

    • Australian Human Rights Commission – www.humanrights.gov.au
    • Your state or territory based human rights, anti-discrimination or equal opportunity body

    The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) can provide free legal advice and, if appropriate, legal representation in relation to your complaint. Legal advice may include advice on the best place to make a complaint for your particular case. If you would like to obtain legal advice about your options, contact: Laura Lombardo, Senior Solicitor, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, Phone: (02) 8898 6526, Email: llombardo@piac.asn.au

    If you live in Victoria, you can also contact Victoria Legal Aid for free, confidential legal information about discrimination matters. Victoria Legal Aid can be contacted on 1300 792 387 or by visiting https://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/contact-us

    Contact us 

    If you have any questions or require more information please email theinsuranceproject@beyondblue.org.au

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