Can I get life insurance if I have a mental health condition?
When it comes to life insurance policies and mental health, insurers might be hesitant to offer cover to those who have either a long history or a one-off experience with a mental health condition. This year saw a number of cases reported where life insurance companies unfairly refused cover to those who disclosed a mental health problem, with some charities putting it down to the insurers’ wish to minimise risk and boost the bottom line.
Here we look at what personal information you’ll need to pass over to a life insurance company, the kinds of questions insurers ask and why life insurance companies need to rethink their approach to mental health.
What is the current practice around life insurance policies?
At the moment, if you want to pay into a life insurance policy then you’ll need to undergo checks on your current health, your lifestyle and your family history.
Many life insurance policies don’t cover pre-existing medical conditions, including mental health problems. Others have restrictions about what they will or won’t cover when it comes to mental health.
Either way, life insurance companies aren’t liable to explain their decision-making process, which leaves people wondering where they stand.
How do insurance companies ask about mental health conditions?
As with any illness or lifelong condition, most insurance companies expect you to disclose details about any mental health conditions.
Life insurance companies want to get the most clear view of your health, so they’re likely to ask personal questions. Questions surrounding your mental health might cover:
- The condition you’ve been diagnosed with
- Any suicidal thoughts or attempts
- What symptoms you experience, how often and how severe
- Whether you’ve been hospitalised in the past
But when it comes to individual mental health, some of these questions are uselessly vague. A question such as, “Have you ever had a mental health problem” is unhelpful considering that, in any given year, 1 in 4 people in the UK encounter issues with their mental health. If you answer with a yes, even if the episode was a long time ago, then you might be refused cover or handed a policy with a hiked-up premium.
With mental health such a prevalent problem, life insurance companies need to do better when formulating their policy questions.
Gaps in the law surrounding mental health
This year (2018), there’s been reported a number of cases where a particularly unfair approach has been taken by insurance companies after a customer has declared mental health problems.
Under the current Equality Act, protection is extended to those with a disability when faced with unfair treatment. The Act’s definition of disability, though, doesn’t cover everyone with a mental health problem.
Life insurers have been accused of refusing cover to this with anxiety and depression, or not paying out after someone affected by mental illness dies, even if their death was unrelated to their mental health. There’s even been instances where those who’ve attended a few counselling sessions in the past have been penalised.
Insurance companies’ approach to mental health needs to be updated
If you have a mental health condition, you might be assessed as a “high risk” customer by an insurance company. This means the insurer thinks it’s more likely that you’re going to pay out money on a claim.
But what’s judged as high risk is based on an increasingly outdated idea of mental illness. “One-off” episodes, mild cases such as anxiety, or anything that requires a visit to a GP, are all taken into account by insurers. The fear surrounding the least mention of mental illness suggests that unreasonable and outdated assumptions are being made by life insurance companies.
As a spokesperson at Rethink Mental Illness has said, this outmoded point of view “is resulting in people being disproportionately penalised for their condition”.
Find out more
Remember, it’s unfair practice for an insurer to refuse to give you insurance cover because of your mental health – unless they can give evidence that you’re more likely to make a claim.
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