Life insurers must end unlawful mental health discrimination, following VEOHRC report

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Related Project: Discrimination, Homepage

June 12, 2019

PIAC’s Mental Health and Insurance Project has welcomed changes by several major travel insurers that will prevent discrimination against people with mental health conditions, but called for urgent action to end widespread discrimination by life insurers.

‘The removal of outdated and discriminatory blanket mental health exclusion clauses from travel insurance policies is an important step towards fairer treatment of people with past or current mental health conditions by the insurance industry,’ said PIAC Senior Solicitor, Michelle Cohen.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission’s report on mental health discrimination by travel insurers, Fair-minded cover, was released today.

For years, PIAC has been working with beyondblue and Mental Health Australia on behalf of the many consumers affected by unfair insurance policies and practices in relation to mental health.

‘However, despite the progress we have seen in travel insurance, discrimination against people with past or current mental health conditions by life insurers remains widespread, including in relation to income protection and total and permanent disability products,’ said Michelle Cohen.

‘Our case work shows life insurers routinely deny cover and apply broad, blanket mental health exclusions not supported by evidence, and do not reflect the risk posed by the applicant to the insurer.’

‘We hope that VEOHRC’s report will be a catalyst for further, industry-wide changes that end unfair discrimination against the many Australians who have previously, or will in future, experience the symptoms of a mental health condition.’

‘There needs to be an investigation into the systemic discrimination by insurers in the life insurance industry, in the way insurers design, price and offer policies and assess claims for people with past or current mental health conditions.’

‘We are encouraged that the Insurance Council of Australia and Actuaries Institute have acknowledged their role in supporting better compliance with anti-discrimination law, and we welcome the opportunity to work further with both of those organisations in future.’

‘Insurers must deal with individual insurance policy applications and claims on the basis of robust, contemporary statistical and actuarial data not out-dated generalisations and unfair assessments of individual circumstances. If they don’t, their conduct is unlawful,’ said Michelle Cohen.

Media contact: PIAC Media and Communications Manager, Gemma Pearce – 0478 739 280

Image by Pictures of Money is licensed under CC by 2.0.

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