beyondblue Stands Up to the Insurance Industry
24 January 2013 at 8:23 am
Depression Not for Profit beyondblue has begun a campaign to fight what it claims are the insurance industry’s discriminatory policies against Australians with a mental illness – calling on the Federal Government to strengthen anti-discrimination laws.
beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell AO said insurance companies routinely discriminate against people with a mental illness by rejecting their claims and refusing to offer them a range of products including life and travel insurance, and income protection.
“This is despite the insurance companies having provided no evidence that people who have experienced or who are being treated for depression or anxiety are a higher risk,” Carnell said.
“More than three million Australians currently have a mental illness, but if they try to get insurance, they may face discrimination that adds to their stress, stops them from insuring themselves and discourages them from seeking treatment.
“For example, many people who have experienced depression but got the help they needed, never took time off work and completely recovered, may be refused income protection insurance years later. A response such as this is discriminatory and completely disproportionate to the risk.
“We believe this is at odds with the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act.
“Under current legislation, and proposed legislation to consolidate Australia’s existing anti-discrimination laws, legal action may be the only way to hold insurance companies accountable.
“Insurance companies have refused to provide the evidence upon which they base decisions such as this."
Carnell told the Senate’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee in Melbourne, as part of a joint submission with the Mental Health Council of Australia, that the new legislation is an ideal opportunity for the Government to stop insurance companies’ discrimination.
She said clearer laws will ensure evidence for refusing someone a policy or a claim will have to be produced without the person having to resort to legal action.
Carnell said that since beyondblue started talks with the insurance industry in 2002 no significant progress had been made.
“After 10 years of discussions and the fact nothing much has changed indicates that we have to show them we are serious and do something else,” she said.