Even if you have no personal or family history of mental health issues, it’s important to be aware that they can affect anyone at any time. Over 700,000 New Zealand adults have been diagnosed with either depression or anxiety at some time in their lives. Seeking treatment is a big part of the road to management or recovery of a mental health condition, but does your insurance cover that?
The New Zealand insurance industry needs to examine how it deals with mental health
Many health insurance policies either exclude psychiatric conditions or offer low levels of cover. This can lead to people putting off seeking professional help and trying to ‘tough it out’ on their own, and it could be contributing to the mental health crisis we are experiencing in this country.
Income protection and permanent disability policies are usually where the best levels of support for mental illness can be found. If a mental disability is severe enough to prevent you from working, either temporarily or permanently, these types of cover will provide you with a backup income, sometimes for many years. For example, if at age 30 you take out income protection insurance that covers you to age 65, and you develop a mental illness five years later, you could potentially benefit from a full 30 years of cover.
However, this is dependent on you having no history of mental illness when you first apply for your insurance. If you have suffered from depression or anxiety in the past, or it is reflected in your medical records, a new insurer may not cover you for mental illness or may impose special conditions on parts of your policy.
How do I make sure my insurance covers me?
Quite simply, your best chance of being covered for a mental illness is to take out insurance before you ever suffer from one. But even if you’ve experienced a mild condition in the past, you may still be able to obtain adequate levels of cover. The most important thing is to be completely honest with your Advice Financial adviser and mention even the little things, like being prescribed a sedative because you’re an anxious flyer. An insurer may well decide that they’re happy to cover you anyway, or just for specific things, but it’s important they know such details before you make a claim. Any kind of non-disclosure could result in no pay-out at all. By giving your adviser all the facts, they can find you the best possible cover.
The chairman of the New South Wales branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Gary Galambos, recently said, “The insurance industry should be encouraging their people to see us, and be reassured that help-seeking people are help-seeking people, and are less likely to be a risk for these companies.” We all need to start talking more about mental health, to remove the stigma surrounding it and prompt conversations about how our government, healthcare agencies and insurers can deal with it better.
If you want to check what kind of mental health cover your current insurance provides you, or you want to take out additional cover to protect you from possible future issues, come and talk to the friendly and experienced team at Advice Financial. And if you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, reach out to friends, family, your GP or counsellor.
Photo by Autumn Goodman