Many of us may not be aware but most travel insurance companies don’t cover you for trip cancellations or changes if the cause of these is due to mental health conditions. Sounds wrong? Well it was, and the good news is that many of Australia’s biggest insurance providers have now scrapped the mental health exclusion policy! #Win
Here’s what the changes mean and why it’s so important for those with mental illnesses…
According to Beyond Blue, a whopping one in seven young Australians has a mental health condition. Some stats even say ¼ of all people will experience a mental health problem every year. Mental illness doesn’t affect a small minority of the population, plenty of people live with it every day, but travel insurance companies didn’t want to cover them on these grounds.
What exactly does that mean? Well let’s say for example you had to cancel your upcoming trip because your depression needed managing, you wouldn’t be covered and that travel insurance you booked would essentially just be a piece of paper. Or say while living overseas something went wrong with your bipolar medication and you had to rush home. That wouldn’t be covered either and while your holiday was cut short by a medical condition, because it was mental health related, it wouldn’t be covered.
Harsh right? It was essentially discrimination, however how providers got away with it for so long was the argument that like all insurance, you can be denied cover if you have a pre-existing condition. Perhaps the worst part of it all was that according to some reports insurers were digging deep into people’s pasts and using something as small as getting a counselling session as proof that a traveller didn’t declare a pre-existing mental health condition. But what if there was no pre-existing condition and you had a sudden, out of the blue episode of psychosis for example? Nope, that wasn’t covered either and left many first time sufferers at the mercy of large and unpayable medical bills.
A mental health condition can be just as debilitating as breaking your legs while overseas, and after a lot of pressure, the blanket exclusions have been amended and big providers like QBE Insurance and Cover-More Australia are doing the right thing and covering every globe trotter, regardless of their mental health status. Defining it as a public health issue rather than something ‘just in your head’ is so important for breaking down stigmas around mental illness.
It’s also important for breaking down barriers to travel for those who could perhaps benefit from it the most. Did you know travel has been proven to boost happiness, foster better brain health and increase emotional stability? Mental illness may not be fixed by travelling, but it does carry with it the possibility to help, so doesn’t everyone deserve the right to travel with the safety net of knowing someone has your back if anything goes wrong?
Dr Steve Carbone from Beyond Blue was one encourager for insurance providers to meet community standards and address the “endemic, industry-wide problem”. He suggests that companies and travellers can both be satisfied as long as it’s looked at fairly and exclusions “make sense and are reliant on the condition you have, and have a certain time limit”.
If you are a traveller with a mental health condition you should look carefully at your policy and inform the provider before booking. Don’t be bullied or shamed into being your chance to travel safely and with peace of mind. If one provider won’t cover you, find one that is doing the right thing and is willing to treat you fairly.
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