Those who have even mild mental health conditions say they have been completely denied life insurance and exacerbated their economic insecurity.
Dozens of complainants contacted the Guardian about discrimination. Charities and activists called the findings “very worrisome” and showed that insurers operate on the outdated basis of mental illness.
In some cases, insurers appear to refuse long periods of depression or anxiety, or when customers admit to having suicidal thoughts or self-harm on their medical records. It is alleged that these customers are not suitable for insurance even in the event of death unrelated to mental status.
One of the rejected applicants was a victim of a July 7, 2005 bombing in London who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder. She described being rejected as “uneasy” and “worried”, saying she had no knowledge of mental illness.
“I never gave a specific explanation why I was rejected, but I did not have any health problems,” said a woman who did not want to be identified.
“I can, from the insurance company’s point of view, they do not want to cover mental health-related issues for people with mental health problems, but I was surprised to be rejected for any reports, especially considering my health condition , “She added.
Others said they were punished after having participated in one or two sad counseling sessions after their families died, resulting in higher premiums.
Charities warn that legal shortcomings mean that clients have little to protect against this form of prejudice.
Michael Henson-Webb, head of mental health charities, said: “The difficulty is that only persons with disabilities under the Equality Act have exclusive protection, even with some exemptions in the insurance business.
“The current definition of disability under the Act does not include everyone with mental health problems, making it difficult for individuals with mental health problems and their legal advisers to define their rights.”
Laura Peters, consulting manager at Rethink Mental Illness, said: “What is considered” high risk “seems to be based on an increasingly outdated understanding of mental illness that leads to people being disproportionately driven by their own situation Because of noticing premiums or denials. Life and health insurance can be an important safety net. ”
“It’s totally inappropriate and discriminatory to me, and it’s something the government needs to investigate urgently, and we need a basic review of those policies,” he said.
The Guardian heard about dozens of people. Many of them were rejected because of life insurance, but others are not clear about the reasons they say they refuse to get health or travel insurance, but many say the only possible reason is their mental health record.
The suspicion is that insurers are picking customers to minimize risk and improve profitability.
Henson-Webb said: “There is always a lack of transparency in the operations of some insurers and many do not seem to understand why they are denied insurance means they have not been provided with information on how to make a decision.
“It looks as if some insurers are conducting a rude assessment, such as the” three dozen “rules, which can amount to discrimination.”
An insurance broker who asked to be anonymous said: “Some insurers target different markets like” clean life. “That sounds terrible, but they are all dazed businesses.”
He added: “My wife recently wanted to apply for a new cover and she has been pressured by her work on her GP, and insurance companies automatically increase their premiums.” How many people have gone through work pressure? I find it ridiculous. ”
Another respondent, 27-year-old Cara Lisette from Hampshire, said she was deprived of her cover but in the meantime the partner in her eyes had been accepted with the exception. She said: “This seems to be unfair, he can be excluded from the cover of his illness, but I can not get the same result.
Many respondents said they discriminated against being worried about further treatment.
Insurance companies said life insurance applications have been carefully evaluated and evidence-based. They say that when dealing with customers with mental health problems, they ask questions such as how long and how to treat them. They also asked for any time off or attempted suicide. Insurance companies acknowledge that in a few cases, the mental health context can lead to quality loading or exclusion or, in the worst case, refusal to provide cover.
A Royal London spokesman said: “Most mental health conditions are mild or self-limiting, so we are able to provide our customers with over 90% of our standard rates.”
A spokesman for Aviva said: “We take the responsibility of the Equality Act 2010 very seriously, which includes special provisions that allow insurers to evaluate clients individually and provide acceptance terms at standard rates for higher premiums Or refuse to provide coverage based on each applicant’s risk.
“We do not refuse to provide people with disabilities with insurance under different conditions or to provide insurance unless there is statistical evidence that this is a higher risk than those without a history.”