The theme for Mental Health Awareness week 2020 is kindness, and there hasn’t been a more important time than now to be kind to ourselves and those around us. Most of the world has felt the strain in some way, shape or form in 2020 with Coronavirus causing disruption, uncertainty and anxiety for many.
But, this isn’t just an issue we are facing as a result of the pandemic, mental health concerns have been on the rise in recent years, and the current situation has only exacerbated things further.
The conversation surrounding mental health is one that has gained a lot of attention over recent years. We’re opening up more about our conditions and concerns, which is brilliant, but the question is; has the insurance industry caught up with us?
In this article, we’ll be addressing the challenges of getting insurance cover with a past or present mental health condition, what your rights are and how to choose the right cover for you.
Mental health conditions are on the rise
The rise in mental health conditions is a reflection of the fact that people are speaking more openly about their thoughts and feelings, but there is still a way to go. The reality is that most of us will experience some kind of mental health issue, whether directly or indirectly.
Here’s some insight into just how prominent mental health is in today’s society:
- According to Mind, ¼ people in the UK will experience a mental health condition each year
- A survey from 2018 revealed 40% of all GP appointments involve mental health
- Reportedly, a total of 70 million workdays are lost each year due to mental health, costing UK businesses approximately £2.4bn per year
- Surveys show that severe mental health conditions have been on the rise since the 1990s
Challenges of getting insurance cover
- Being refused cover – If you’ve had a serious mental health condition for a long time, you might need to find a specialist broker or insurer.
- More expensive insurance – For some types of insurance, the insurer may charge a higher premium to someone with a past or present mental health condition.
- If your condition stops you from working – Some types of insurance might be more expensive if your mental health condition results in you becoming unemployed.
- The insurer’s questions may be uncomfortable to answer – Recalling past events may be a difficult and stressful experience. However, it’s important to disclose this information so the insurer can form a clearer picture.
- Being offered a policy that excludes claims arising from your condition – If you have any *pre-existing mental health conditions, then some insurers might exclude treatment for these illnesses from your cover.
*Pre-existing condition – A past mental health condition is typically classified as pre-existing if you’ve had any incidences of it within the last five years. However, this may differ with each insurer.
What are your rights?
- The Equality Act 2010 – The Equality Act states that insurance providers can only lawfully treat you differently based on your mental health if what they do is reasonable, and they act based on information that is both reliable and relevant.
So, if an extra charge is greater than the risk your mental health condition poses, then it would be classed as unlawful discrimination.
Choosing the right cover for you
- Disclosure – In some instances, such as applying for home or car insurance, there will be no need for you to share this information with the insurance provider. However, for most other products such as health and life insurance, withholding information about your health could have serious consequences. The best thing to do is fully disclose any mental health conditions during the application process. That way, you can accurately find out what your best options are.
- Specialist insurance providers – Mind Charity have put together a list of insurance providers that claim to provide specialist cover for people with pre-existing mental health conditions. However, that is not to say these providers will cover you if you have a mental health condition. Each policy is assessed in its own right.
- Seek independent financial advice – Part of our financial planning process is assessing your contingency plan. If life or health insurance is required, we will research the market and speak to providers about your health history. We will recommend an insurer that we feel is the right fit for you and will be most likely to provide cover, although this can’t be guaranteed.
It’s important to note that if you’re considering applying for protection at the moment, then you’re likely to encounter additional coronavirus-related questions. And your application may also face potential delays, with most insurance and healthcare providers having to re-prioritise their tasks amid the current crisis.
Lastly, we’ve talked a lot about the practicalities of obtaining health insurance if you have a mental health concern, but the most important thing to say is that you’re not alone and nor do you need to carry the weight of your worries on your own.
Everyone has a personal journey with mental health, and often the hardest step is to start talking, but having a conversation about your mental health with those around you creates a safe space for them to share their thoughts as well.
However, we appreciate that sometimes it can be hard to talk to people you know, so please remember the brilliant service offered by the Samaritans. Call 116 123 any time, day or night, or if you’d prefer to put your thoughts down in writing email firstname.lastname@example.org