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Insurance cover and mental health

Explains what challenges you might face when applying for insurance cover, what is meant by a pre-existing medical condition, and how you can find the right cover. Also explains what could happen if you need to make a claim.

What challenges might I face when applying for insurance?

  • It might be difficult to get the cover that you want. For example, many insurance providers (known as insurers) do not cover pre-existing medical conditions, including mental health problems. They may also have restrictions about what they won't cover in terms of mental health.
  • You could be assessed as a 'high risk' customer. This means the insurer believes they are more likely to have to pay out money on a claim. So you could be refused cover or charged a higher premium (the amount you pay to take out an insurance contract). 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. Insurers 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 insurer asks might be too broad. For example, the insurer may ask you only one question about your mental health, such as 'have you ever had a mental health problem?'. If you say yes, they may then refuse you cover or charge you a higher premium.
  • 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 application process may feel upsetting or intrusive. Sometimes you might be asked difficult or personal questions about your mental health, by staff who don’t have mental health training.
  • Some insurers may raise prices if you tell them that you are taking medication or receiving other treatments. This can be frustrating if you feel that you’re being punished for managing your mental health problem or that the insurer has a poor understanding of mental health. See our information on your legal rights when dealing with insurers and types of disability discrimination for more on this.
  • The insurer might not clearly explain their decision-making processes. You may find that when you are refused insurance cover or charged a high premium the insurer does not properly explain why.

This can be extremely frustrating, but there are some steps you can take to make it easier. See our information on getting the right insurance cover, your insurance rights and how you can challenge discrimination by insurers.

“I've 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. You can find information about different types of insurance cover from Citizens Advice or MoneyHelper.

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic may have impacted insurance policies in some cases. And it may have affected the way you feel about getting insurance. For information on coronavirus and insurance see MoneyHelper.

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 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 insurer 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. The policy says it covers medical treatment, including for mental health problems. But in the small print it says that this doesn’t cover pre-existing medical conditions.

While he’s 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.

How can I find the right insurance cover?

Having a mental health problem can mean that you face certain challenges to getting insurance. But there are things you can do to make sure you get the right cover at a good price. You might find it helpful to:

Remember: Under disability discrimination law, it is unlawful for insurers to discriminate against someone with a mental health problem if it is a disability under the Equality Act 2010.

But there are exemptions in the Equality Act 2010 that allow an insurer to make decisions based on your disability, as long as these decisions are made on the basis of relevant and reliable information, and the insurer acts reasonably. Citizens Advice have more information about when an insurer is allowed to discriminate against you.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly by an insurer because you've told them about your mental health problem, see our page on your rights when taking out insurance for more information on what you can do.

Shop around different insurers

  • Use brokers or comparison sites to help you compare different options. MoneyHelper has more information on how to get the best out of brokers and comparison websites.
  • Get quotes from different insurers, so you can compare prices and decide which works best for you. Some websites have online quote tools. So you might want to check how much your insurance would have cost without declaring a mental health problem, to get a more accurate understanding of any price differences.
  • Look at insurers who cover people with pre-existing conditions, including mental health problems. See our page on specialist insurers for details on these.
  • Choose an insurer that has a thorough approach to assessment. An insurer that asks you relevant and appropriate questions about your mental health before making their decision is more likely to provide suitable cover at a reasonable price.

“Usually a quick Google to find a travel insurance policy that covers my condition will easily find something suitable. And although it’s more expensive, it’s definitely better for peace of mind.”

Check exactly what different policies cover

  • Check if you’re already covered for basic insurance. Your work or bank may have a policy that provides some cover.
  • Read the small print. Read your policy carefully, including the small print, and make sure you understand exactly what it covers.
  • Check whether pre-existing medical conditions are covered, including mental health problems. Keep in mind that many policies don't include pre-existing medical conditions as standard.

If there is anything you don't understand or you need to find out more, contact the insurer.

“I make sure to read the small print to see what’s covered and what isn’t. The most useful thing I’ve found is to contact the insurer directly, sometimes anonymously, to find the right information before I commit to a policy.”

Prepare before you apply

  • Have a doctor’s report ready before you apply. You could ask your GP or psychiatrist to provide a report that explains your condition in more detail. This might help your case when you apply for insurance or if you need to challenge an insurer’s decision. Reports can sometimes take a while to come through, so try to have this ready beforehand.
  • Consider asking someone to support you. Looking for insurance can be difficult and confusing, especially if you are feeling unwell. If you can, ask someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, carer or advocate, to support you. And if you’re feeling overwhelmed or exhausted, take a break and come back to it later.

Tell the insurer what you need

Staff at insurance companies may not have a good understanding of mental health, or experience in assessing mental health. This can feel challenging or frustrating. But remember that you deserve to be treated with respect.

Insurers should offer at least 2 ways of communicating. For example, you could ask to:

  • Communicate by email if you find it hard to talk on the phone
  • Talk to a different member of staff if you feel someone doesn't understand your situation

If your mental health problem meets the definition of a disability under the Equality Act 2010 and it makes applying for insurance more challenging, you may also be able to ask for reasonable adjustments. For example, you could ask to:

  • Extend deadlines to give you more time to fill out forms
  • Have someone else communicate with the insurer on your behalf, such as a partner, close friend or advocate

See our pages on disability discrimination and reasonable adjustments for more information on your rights when asking for what you need.

Contact an advocate

If you’re finding it difficult to get insurance because of your mental health problem, you may be able to get an advocate to help you. This could be a friend, family member or a professional advocate. An advocate can:

See our information on advocacy to find out more.

Get help with any money problems

Insurance can be expensive. And if you’re already struggling with money, trying to find affordable insurance can add to these worries. If your financial situation is making your mental health worse, see our pages on money and mental health for some ideas that could help.

The Mental Health & Money Advice website also has tips, advice and videos on coping with money problems, including information about finding the right insurance cover.

What about if I need to make a claim on my insurance?

Once you’ve taken out an insurance policy, you may find yourself in a position where you have to ‘make a claim’.

An insurance claim is when you ask your insurer to pay the cost of a loss or event that is covered in the policy that you took out with them.

Sometimes, insurers may reject insurance claims, or refuse to pay the full amount. There can be various reasons for this. It can be really worrying and frustrating to have a claim refused, especially if you feel that the decision is unfair.

For more information on why your claim might be refused and what you can do next see the MoneyHelper and Citizens Advice websites, and our tips on what you can do if an insurer rejects your application or claim.

For help understanding your legal rights when making a claim, see our information on your rights when dealing with insurers.

Keep evidence

It's a good idea to keep evidence about your dealings with insurance companies, in case you want to make a complaint or take legal action in future. This could include:

  • Copies of letters and emails that you send the insurer, and that they send you
  • A record of any phone conversations you have with the insurer (such as the date, time, name of the person you speak to, and a short summary of what you each said)
  • Any other information that supports your claim (such as reports, receipts, invoices)

This information was published in February 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References and bibliography available on request.

If you want to reproduce this content, see our permissions and licensing page.

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