A comprehensive mystery shop and analysis of mental health coverage of Australian travel insurers by comparison site Mozo.com.au has found that over half (51%) of travel insurers do not cover incidents related to mental health, which could leave many travellers high and dry while on holiday.
The remaining insurers allow customers to opt for additional cover and would consider covering for a premium following a medical assessment. However, this does not mean mental health cover is guaranteed, just the potential to be covered after assessment.
To gain an understanding of mental health cover with each insurer, Mozo researchers analysed travel insurance product disclosure statements (PDS) from each insurer as well as undertaking a comprehensive mystery shop to gain an understanding of how extensive mental health insurance coverage is.
“The travel insurance industry is exhibiting a high level of discrimination against mental illness, with many insurers placing it in the ‘too hard’ basket. While it’s feasible to cover for a range of conditions, from cancer to heart disease, mental illness falls into a murky area that many travel insurers don’t want to touch,” says Kirsty Lamont, Mozo Director.
“Mozo’s research has found that many travel insurers have a very black and white view of mental health, where a period of stress 15 years ago could fall into the same category as present-day diagnosed schizophrenia when considering eligibility for cover. All 47 insurers assessed considered stress, depression and anxiety to be a mental illness.”
Mental health has varying definitions from insurers – ranging from stress and anxiety all the way through to schizophrenia and suicidal thoughts. 48% of insurers consider exhibiting a sign or symptom of mental health (meaning at least one trip to a therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist) as an example of a pre-existing condition while 52% counted a medical diagnosis as grounds for considering a condition pre-existing.
“For customers who have suffered from past or present-day mental health issues, it’s an absolute minefield to wade through PDS forms to determine the level of cover a travel insurer is willing to provide you. Mozo has undertaken Australia’s leading mental health travel insurance assessment to gain an understanding of the level of cover across the industry,” says Lamont.
“Many customers booking travel insurance for their dream holiday away may be completely unaware that a past therapy session or a bout of post-natal depression could affect their ability to make claims against their cover. It pays to be mindful that some insurers are more progressive than others when it comes to covering customers with a history of mental health.”
The relevance of a customer’s mental health history also varied greatly between insurers with 50% considering a mental health incident at any point in a customer’s history as grounds for mental illness to be listed as a pre-existing condition. Time frames with other insurers ranged anywhere from 5 years prior to the last two months, to a present-day condition.
Mozo’s mystery shop also found a lack of understanding from some travel insurers regarding the level of mental health cover their policies provided. While some representatives were highly informed, others were uncertain or evasive at best, reading directly from the PDS or answering policy questions with responses such as ‘maybe’ or ‘it seems to be’. Some travel insurance call lines have disclosures that state that verbal information given by representatives is only advice so it pays to ensure all cover is provided in writing.
“With at least 45% of Australians experiencing mental illness in their life time , it’s important to know your travel insurance will have you covered. Mozo is leading the way when it comes to travel insurance comparison search engines, displaying whether a provider offers mental health illness cover for preexisting conditions by clicking ‘more info’.”
Travel insurers have varying definitions of the meaning of mental illness, however the most common definition is any illness, condition or disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health disorders, which account for 45% of travel insurers definitions.
“While the travel insurance industry is making steps in the right direction when it comes to mental health cover, we’d like to see greater industry-wide coverage. Right now, the onus is very much on the customer to see whether they are covered for any mental illness related incidents,” says Lamont.
“Travel insurance is designed to act as a safeguard against unforeseen circumstance while travelling abroad. By doing your research and opting for a progressive travel insurer, you can rest easy knowing that you’re covered.”
Mozo compares more than 1,800 products from over 200 banking, insurance and energy providers to help thousands of Australians find a better deal each month via its award-winning comparison tools and calculators. As one of the most visited comparison sites in Australia, our team of experts routinely provides financial commentary and advice for major news outlets in Australia.