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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What insurance could I get?

There are lots of different kinds of insurance plans available to cover a huge range of situations. This page explains the most common types of insurance you might want to buy:

See our page on your rights for more information on whether an insurance company can legally charge you more or deny you cover because of your mental health problem.

Private health

Private health insurance covers you for private medical treatment if you become ill. This may cover a range of treatments, such as hospital treatment, outpatient care and medication.

  • Pre-existing medical conditions, such as mental health problems, are often exempt from health insurance policies.
  • If you are refused health insurance, or have to pay higher premiums because of your mental health problem, the insurer must be able to prove objectively that your mental health problem increases the risk of you becoming ill and making a claim.

The consumer organisation Which? publish some guidance about choosing private healthcare insurance on their website here.

Our page on seeking help through the private sector contains more information about private health care.

Illness and income

Illness insurance will pay money to replace your income if you are unable to work because of an accident, long-term ill health or disability. It can be difficult to find illness insurance that will cover mental health problems. Many insurance providers do not cover mental health problems at all, or set limits on the number of times they will pay out.

  • Most types of illness insurance do not cover pre-existing medical conditions. For example, if you have a history of severe depression, you wouldn’t be able to claim if you become unable to work because of your depression.
  • However, new and unrelated mental health conditions are likely to be covered. For example, if you have a pre-existing diagnosis of depression, but then you begin to experience new problems that lead to diagnosis of schizophrenia, this should be covered by your policy – as long as you can prove that the two conditions are unrelated.
  • Your pre-existing mental health problem should not affect your cover for other unrelated illnesses, such as heart disease or cancer.

Travel

Travel insurance covers you while you are abroad or travelling in the UK for a variety of situations, including medical emergencies, flight cancellation, and lost or stolen items. You can get cover for different types of travel, for example, whether you are away for work, on holiday or visiting family.

  • Check whether your travel insurance covers pre-existing medical conditions, such as mental health problems, as many do not. Standard insurance policies, like the ones you get through a travel agent, usually exclude pre-existing conditions.
  • If your policy does not cover a pre-existing mental health problem, you would not be able to claim if you needed treatment for this condition while you were on holiday. However, this shouldn't affect any claims you make that aren't related to your condition, such as unrelated illnesses or if something is stolen.

The GOV.UK website contains foreign travel advice for people with mental health issues, and explains how the British Embassy may be able to help you when you're travelling abroad (if you're a British national).

What is a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?

If you are travelling within the European Union (EU), you may be able to get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The card gives you access to free or reduced-cost emergency healthcare when visiting EU countries, including for any chronic or pre-existing conditions.

I've not faced any major challenges [getting specialist travel insurance for holidays]. I do worry about my plans to go travelling though, as I know long-term cover will be more expensive.

Life

Life insurance covers you so that if you die, a sum of money will be paid to your family, friends, or whoever you decide.

  • If you have a mental health problem, insurance companies may assess that you have an increased risk of suicide or accidental death. This can make life insurance expensive and hard to get.
  • An insurance provider might refuse to sell you life insurance on the basis of your mental health problem, or ask you to pay higher premiums, but to do this they must be able to show objectively that your condition increases the risk of you dying.

Vehicle

If you drive, you are legally required to have third-party car insurance as a minimum. Third-party car insurance covers damage to someone else's vehicle or property, and injury to someone else in an accident. You can also get more comprehensive policies that cover repairs to your own vehicle.

  • When you apply for car insurance, the insurance company will want to know about any medical conditions that might affect your driving, including any mental health problems. If you're unsure about whether this applies to you, your GP should be able to advise you.
  • You may have to inform the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) about your mental health problem if you have a particular diagnosis or your mental health problem could affect your driving (for example, if you take medication that makes you drowsy).
  • Having a mental health problem usually shouldn't affect your application for insurance, provided that you have informed the DVLA if you need to and have a valid driving licence. However, some car insurance providers may judge that you have an increased risk of accident because of your mental health problem, and increase your premiums to reflect this. In this case, the provider will need to be able to show objectively that your condition increases the chance of you having an accident.

See our legal pages on fitness to drive for much more information on the rights that you have to drive, when you need to tell the DVLA about a mental health problem, what information you need to give them and how to appeal if your driving licence is taken away.

My current car insurance company have been helpful – they have allowed me to have my employment status as 'housewife' which has reduced my premiums.

Home contents

Home contents insurance covers you for loss, theft or damage to your personal and home possessions. It can also cover possessions you take outside your house, such as your mobile phone.

  • As with other types of insurance, home contents insurance companies cannot refuse cover or increase a premium because of your mental health problem, unless they can support their decision with reliable data and statistics.
  • There will be few, if any occasions, when insurance companies can legally justify charging higher premiums or refusing insurance for home contents insurance because of your mental health history.

This information was published in August 2015. We will revise it in 2018.


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