ABC PRESENTER: Ella Ingram had a big win today. As a result, things look set to change for insurers around the country, as well as for the rest of us who take out their policies.
ABC JOURNALIST VOICEOVER: Ella is finally going to get the $4000 payout she’s entitled to, plus $15,000 in compensation for hurt and humiliation.
ABC’s LEIGH SALES: Nearly half of all Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, from mild anxiety to severer psychosis.
MADELEINE MORRIS: QBE declined to comment to 7.30 but also attempted to delay this story by seeking a legal injunction, which was refused.
MALE JOURNALIST VOICEOVER: QBE wouldn’t be interviewed today, but released a statement.
ELLA INGRAM: My name’s Ella Ingram. I took on QBE and I won.
CAPTIONING: In 2016, Ella took insurance giant QBE to the Victorian Civil and Administrative tribunal (VCAT). In a landmark victory, VCAT found that when Ella tried to make a claim, QBE had discriminated against her on the grounds of her mental health.
FEMALE JOURNALIST VOICEOVER: The trip was due to leave in April, but deep down Ella knew she wasn’t well enough to go. When her psychiatrist also recommended she cancel, with a heavy heart, she followed his advice.
CAPTIONING: In 2012, she had to pull out of a school trip to New York after being diagnosed for the first time with depression. She had already paid for the trip, including travel insurance and when she lodged her claim, she was shocked to find it was rejected.
ELLA INGRAM: So when I was 17, I was in Year 12 and I was going to go on a school trip. I’d saved up for about, maybe a year-year and a half, and I worked at a bakery. I was so excited. That was all we could talk about at school was the trip to New York, the trip to New York, but unfortunately I got diagnosed for the first time with depression. I was really, really upset about it, but I knew that I just couldn’t go. I had travel insurance with QBE. I went through with a claim for about $4200. It got denied straight away because unbeknownst to me, they had a blanket mental health exclusion in their policy. I was shocked and I was angry, and it was the first time that I felt stigmatised for having depression. I then started an appeal process that took months and then took even years, and it wasn’t until three years later that we finally got to court. To finally get QBE into court was such a good feeling. It was also very terrifying at the same time going up against a multi-billion-dollar company. I was really anxious but then my anxiety sort of subsided because I realised that when they had to prove that what they were doing legal, well it just didn’t add up, the numbers didn’t add up. I felt confident we would succeed and that, yeah, we would get a win. I felt like I was doing it all for the right reasons and that’s why I continued for such a long time is that I knew that there must be people out there that were going through the exact same thing that I had and I knew that people hadn’t gotten as far as I had because they’re vulnerable because big insurance companies are taking advantage of these vulnerabilities. I was in such a good position to continue with this because I had such great support from friends and family. You know, why not? Why not continue with this? Why not fight it and start something, and send a message to these insurance companies that discrimination is not ok and mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatised.
CAPTION WITHIN INSTAGRAM, ON SCREEN: Following widespread media coverage of Ella’s victory, she was inundated on social media by messages from well-wishers and people who had also experienced discrimination. #endiscrimination
ELLA INGRAM: That was so, I guess, empowering and it just backed up all the reasons of why I wanted to go through with this in the first place. I would like insurance companies to know that people with mental illness aren’t weak. They’re people like myself that are going to fight them in court and not let them get away with what they’ve been getting away with for so long, and I would like them to stop discriminating against people with mental illnesses because it’s no different from people with a psychical illness. I would hope that, um, anyone who’s been in a similar situation to me would go onto beyondblue’s website and share their story, and help end discrimination.