Insurance cover and mental health

Explains how mental health problems can affect insurance cover, what your rights are, and how to choose the right cover for you. Includes a list of specialist insurance providers.

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How could my mental health problem affect my insurance?

What challenges might I face?

Unfortunately, if you have a mental health problem you might sometimes find that you have a hard time getting suitable insurance cover. These are some common challenges:

  • You could be assessed as a 'high risk' customer (meaning that the provider believes they are more likely to have to pay out money on a claim) and refused cover or charged a higher premium. This can happen even if you had a mental health problem in the past but are now recovered.
  • You may be charged more if you are unable to work because of your mental health problem. Insurance providers may only give you the option of selecting 'in work' or 'unemployed' in your application, and you may find your premium is higher if you answer that you are unemployed.
  • The questions the provider asks you might not be helpful. For example, you may be asked a single question, such as 'have you ever had a mental health problem?', and then refused cover or charged a higher premium if you answer 'yes'.
  • It might be difficult to get the cover that you want. For example, many insurance providers do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, including mental health problems, or have restrictions about what they will or won't cover in terms of mental health.
  • The process of applying can be difficult, for example if your mental health problem makes it hard for you to concentrate on small print or fill out forms.
  • The insurance provider might not clearly explain its decision-making processes. You may find that when you are refused insurance cover or charged a high premium the insurance provider does not properly explain why.

This can be extremely frustrating, but there are lots of steps you can take. Our page on getting the right cover offers guidance on how to get the insurance cover you want, and our pages on your insurance rights and complaints and legal action explain how you can challenge discrimination by insurance providers.

I have had problems finding affordable car insurance as my condition means I can be off work for long periods of time – having 'unemployed' as my occupation drives the premium right up.

Do I really need insurance cover?

There are lots of different types of insurance to cover a wide range of situations. Most are optional (meaning it's up to you to decide whether you need them or not), but many people find that buying insurance provides financial security and peace of mind. For example, you could get travel insurance before you go on holiday in case you lose your passport or something is stolen.

Some types of insurance are compulsory, such as car insurance if you drive a car. If you want to buy a house your mortgage provider may require you to get life insurance as a condition of your mortgage offer.

You can find more information about different types of insurance cover from the Money Advice Service.  

What's a pre-existing medical condition?

A pre-existing medical condition is any condition you have at the time you apply for insurance. Many insurance policies do not cover pre-existing conditions – this means that they will not pay out on a claim related to a pre-existing condition, including mental health problems.

For example, if you have a diagnosis of depression when you apply for your insurance, this would be considered a pre-existing condition. If your policy does not cover pre-existing conditions, but you try to make a claim related to your depression, your provider will dismiss your claim as invalid and will refuse to pay out any money.

Example

David has a diagnosis of schizophrenia and buys a standard travel insurance policy through his travel agent. The policy says it covers medical treatment, including for mental health problems. However, there is a clause in the small print that states this does not cover pre-existing medical conditions.

While he is travelling, David becomes unwell with problems related to his diagnosis and needs hospital treatment. In this case, this treatment would not be covered by his policy, and David would have to pay for it all himself.


This information was published in April 2018 – to be revised in 2021. References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information see our page on permissions and licensing.


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