Discriminatory practices see QBE change travel insurance policy

Discriminatory practices see QBE change travel insurance policy

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Ella Ingram
Ella Ingram and her fight against insurance discrimination was crucial in helping bring about change

Victoria Legal Aid has welcomed the changes QBE (Australia) Ltd has made to its travel insurance policy, saying it is a move toward the insurance industry abiding by the law and putting an end to discriminatory practices.

Executive Director Civil Justice Dan Nicholson said that QBE’s new and updated product disclosure statement for travel insurance released on 1 July 2017 looks to have taken positive action to reverse its unlawful treatment of people with a mental health condition.

‘We’re really pleased to see QBE finally abiding by the decision in QBE v Ingram and removing the blanket mental health exclusion clause.

‘It means that people will no longer be left without cover if they have to cancel their travel, or change plans because of a mental health condition that develops after they bought their policy,’ Mr Nicholson said.

‘QBE’s new definition of mental illness is now also based on standard medical criteria, which is welcome.

‘We call on other insurance companies that have discriminatory policies to follow the law and live up to community expectations about mental illness. There is no longer any excuse for insurers to discriminate and operate their business on the back of outdated attitudes towards mental illness.’

Executive Director Civil Justice Dan Nicholson

In 2015, Victoria Legal Aid represented Ella Ingram in a case that brought into sharp focus the insurance industry’s systemic discrimination against people with a mental health condition.

That case was successful, with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal ruling that QBE’s exclusion of all claims made because of a mental illness, regardless of the type, severity or circumstances of the illness, was discriminatory under the Equal Opportunity Act.

It found that QBE had directly discriminated against Ella by providing her with a travel insurance policy that included this blanket exclusion, and by relying on that clause to reject her claim for reimbursement of travel expenses.

Mr Nicholson said that the way QBE now sees mental health at long last reflects a more 21st century approach to treatment of people diagnosed with a mental health condition.

‘This is something that organisations like Mental Health Australia, beyondblue and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre have been calling for for over a decade.

‘While QBE appears to have made these significant changes with little fanfare, we are sure that Ella and many others will be cheering,' he said.

‘Under the new policy, there would be nothing to stop Ella from making the claim against her insurance policy.’

How we can help

If you think you have been discriminated against, see Insurance discrimination: your rights if you have a mental health condition or call 1300 792 387, Monday to Friday from 8.45 am to 5.15 pm.

People outside of Victoria can call the Public Interest Advocacy Centre through its Mental Health and Insurance Project on (02) 8898 6500.

Media enquiries

If you have a media enquiry please contact Senior Communications Adviser Paula Wilson (03) 9269 0620 or 0438 612 289.