Insurance discrimination

Everyone has their own unique life experiences, needs and situations; it's what makes you you.

Unfortunately when it comes to taking out insurance some companies treat those who experience mental illness as a group not as an individual. With over three million Australians having experienced mental illness that's a real problem.

Insurers can legally change the standard terms and conditions of an insurance policy for someone with a mental illness but sometimes this happens in an unfair way. 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. We've also been told about numerous cases where insurers have treated customers unfairly by asking someone with depression or anxiety to pay a higher premium, or refusing them insurance even though there's been no impact on their daily life.

So here are a few things to keep in mind when you're considering a new policy or reviewing your current one.

Firstly read the fine print: find out how the insurer describes a mental health condition and importantly what exclusions, exemptions or extra premiums might apply.

Secondly, avoid filling out forms online. It's always better to speak to a real person so you can explain your individual circumstances. Find out whether they take personal circumstances into consideration things like whether your condition has affected your work performance in any way or how you're managing it.

Thirdly, legally you have to disclose any relevant information such as a history of mental illness or any issues with insurance in the past. If you down you may run into trouble with future claims or insurance applications, which could leave you with out of pocket expenses.

If you believe you've been unfairly traded by an insurer, there are several actions you can take. Lodge a complaint or appeal with the insurer's complaint section and ask for a review of the decision. If that doesn't work there are a number of industry and anti-discrimination bodies where you can lodge a complaint or you may wish to seek legal advice.

If you've had an experience with mental illness negotiating insurance can be a tricky thing. So remember: be informed, read the fine print on a policy: how mental health is defined and what exclusions might be applied and take action if you're not happy with what you find. Challenge your insurer or make a complaint to the relevant body. Because your insurance should fit your personal circumstances, not the other way around.

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