Insurers criticised for failing people with mental health problems


Even a year ago, few of us would have been able to quote the headline mental health figure – that half of us will experience a mental health problem at some point.

But we know it now.

Very, very slowly it seems we’re reassessing and updating our views. We are suddenly realising that ours is a society full of individuals who know what it is to battle with their own brain for the smallest window of clarity or relief.

But the massive, prominent and highly influential financial services industry doesn’t seem to be taking part in this national movement.

Some travel insurers are treating customers with a history of mental health problems unfairly, dramatically increasing premiumsfor no obvious reason often years after their condition has been successfully treated.

Ben Rathe, 30, from London, was diagnosed with depression in 2012.

“I went on a course of antidepressants and cognitive behavioural therapy,” he says. “It was all very successful and today I consider my mental health as good. Just like if I broke my leg six years ago, I have to be a bit careful, but it has no impact on my day-to-day life.

“I have no other medical issues but when I [declare my mental health history] on an application, my travel insurance premiums go up by around 55 per cent.”

Rathe says he understands how insurance and risk works but doesn’t understand how one historic diagnosis has to be carried with him forever in a way other medical history isn’t.

“I’m at the mild end of mental health problems,” he says. “I can understand there are higher risks with people who have been hospitalised and who have cancelled holidays in the past because of their mental health.

“I want to understand what is going on here. I don’t think insurance companies are greedy or evil. But there’s clearly a model that is just throwing out a number. It’s as if I’m being punished for something historic that I have no control over.

“Especially if you’ve been open and honestly disclosed them, you may have to call a stranger in a call centre and discuss the fine details of your mental health. It could be quite traumatic.

“The process has to be more transparent, more accessible with fewer barriers. Otherwise you could easily push people towards not informing insurers at all, which does nobody any good.”

That’s exactly what’s happening. Research out this week from the Moneyand Mental Health Policy Institute found that the sky-high premiums and punitive application process means 45 per cent of those with mental health problems “never disclose” the issue to their travel insurer, compared with around 6 per cent of people with physical health problems.

One in three people with mental health problems have travelled with no insurance to cover their mental health, either because they didn’t take out insurance because it was too expensive or because their mental health was excluded from the cover they could get…Read more>>