More insurance companies covering mental illness

A young woman with nervous breakdown expressions on background.

Almost one in five Australians have experienced symptoms of a mental disorder, but for something that’s the third leading cause of disability burden in Australia, mental health and illness can be grossly overlooked.

Ella Ingram experienced this personally when she developed severe depression right before leaving for New York.

She’d saved up and booked her trip – but when she was hospitalised she had to cancel, ABC reported in March.

“When I cancelled it I was quite concerned that we’d lose all this money, and my mum said, don’t worry about it – that’s why you have travel insurance,” she said.

But her travel insurance claim was denied – because her insurance provider did not cover mental illnesses in their policy.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon occurrence; with mental illness frequently not covered by travel insurance providers. Some won’t even provide cover in the first place if you disclose a mental illness.

Luckily some travel insurance companies are changing their stripes, and starting to include mental illness in their policy covers.

This week, Cover-More and Zurich have announced a new mental illness cover in their travel insurance policies for Australia and New Zealand – and have removed the general exclusion most other travel insurance companies have.

This news follows Zurich Insurance Group acquiring Cover-More; and becoming their underwriter.

Cover-More Group Chief Executive Officer Mike Emmett said the company is currently trialing cover for travellers with existing mental illness, and wants to be absolutely sure they get it right.

“It seemed a natural, and overdue, extension for Cover-More and Zurich to incorporate cover for mental illness into our travel insurance policies and we hope other travel insurance providers follow our lead,” he said.

Under the new non-exclusive policy, if a traveller experiences mental illness for the first time whilst overseas, they will be able to claim cover, cancellation and medical expenses.

“We also recognise the importance of providing protection for travellers with existing mental illness conditions so we have commenced a comprehensive pilot of cover for existing conditions in the Cover-More direct sales channel in Australia,” Emmett added.

Cover-More and Zurich will now provide protection for travellers with a variety of existing mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar and PTSD.

And as mental illness becomes more common, more and more travel insurance companies are covering it in their policies, and removing it from their exclusions list.

In July, QBE removed mental health from it’s exclusions list, and updated it’s definition of mental illness. CGU, BUPA and Insure and go also all class mental illness as a pre-existing medical condition, and first time episodes are generally covered after an individual assessment.

Another company following suit is Easy Travel Insurance, who now offer policies covering mental illness both before and during an overseas trip.

Managing Director David Ringsell is particularly pleased with the company’s new changes, and has been concerned about mental illness not being covered in the past.

“It always seemed rather an anomaly to me that the onset of a mental illness that caused a change of plans or cancellation, or that happened during a trip, was not covered, whereas other illnesses would be, with in fact mental illness remaining uncovered even today by most travel insurance companies,” he said.

And whilst it may come as a surprise to many Aussies that their travel insurance won’t cover mental illnesses, Ringsell thinks policy changes are a step in the right direction.

“I am sure we all know someone affected by mental illness and while mental illness may not be as obvious an illness as say a broken leg or arm, it still deserves to be covered as a valid travel insurance claim,” he added.

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