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Insurers punishing people for history of mental illness

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Mothers who have experienced post-natal depression are among those being refused insurance on the basis of having a history of mental illness.

Slater and Gordon lawyer Andrew Weinmann said Australians with any history of mental illness are being unfairly punished by insurance companies who are refusing to give them disability and income protection insurance.

Mr Weinmann has called on the insurance industry to use Mental Health Week (4-10 October) to consider how it treats Australians with a history of mental illness.

“Insurance companies need to stop discriminating on the basis of mental illness,” Mr Weinmann said.

“We see cases every year where insurers refuse to give disability insurance and income protection to people with a history of mental illness – regardless of the circumstances.

“It is wrong to put everyone with a history of mental illness in the too-hard basket.”

Mr Weinmann said the greatest problem was with income protection insurance.

“Many insurers simply refuse to provide income protection to anyone with any history at all of mental illness. That includes mums who have had post-natal depression and people who needed counselling for family difficulties and stresses.

“Sometimes insurers refuse to provide insurance in the first place.  Sometimes they will try to cancel a policy when a person makes a claim after having cover for years by saying the history of mental illness should have been disclosed in the original application for insurance.”

Mr Weinmann said insurers have to comply with disability discrimination laws just like everyone else in Australia.

“If you have been denied insurance, or had your policy cancelled because of a history of mental illness, you might be able to take legal action.”