UK travellers fail to declare MH issues

Almost half of all travellers with mental health issues never disclose their illness to their travel insurer, according to new research.
Travel insurance

Almost half of all travellers with mental health issues never disclose their illness to their travel insurer, new research from UK charity The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute (MMHPI) has found – while those that do face far higher premiums.

The MMHPI is calling for ‘radical reforms’ in the travel insurance industry following the results of its latest survey, and has asked the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to review whether travel insurance pricing for mental health is in compliance with the Equality Act 2010.

According to their polling of 2,000 UK travellers, 45 per cent of those who suffer from mental illness do not declare it to a travel insurer – a huge leap when compared to the six per cent of those with physical problems that don’t declare them.

Through a mystery shopping exercise, the MMHPI found that insurance premiums increased by 400 per cent for travellers with stable and effectively managed mental health issues – confirming the viewpoint of the 13 per cent of travellers that didn’t purchase because it was too expensive. For those who had more severe mental health issues, premiums shot up by between 500 per cent and 2000 per cent. For both severities, there were still insurers that would refuse to give any coverage at all.

“Extremely high premiums and limited access to appropriate cover leave many people who have mental health problems struggling to get suitable travel insurance. We are pleased that the regulator has plans to improve signposting to specialist insurers, but this only addresses part of the problem,” said Charity Director Helen Undy.

The charity has put forward several actions it believes need to be taken to make travel insurance access better for those with mental health issues:

  • The FCA to formally review the fairness of travel insurance pricing for people with mental health problems, including asking firms to demonstrate that their pricing complies with the Equality Act 2010.
  • Insurers to proactively alert customers with mental health problems to all relevant exclusion terms and other conditions, so that they don’t have to search through the Ts and Cs to find out if their mental health will be covered.
  • Insurers to improve their disclosure processes, so that people with mental health problems aren’t required to repeatedly disclose to call centre staff who have little specialist training.

“Half of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives, which could have a long-term impact on our access to insurance,” said Undy. “If the mainstream travel insurance market doesn’t work for half of customers, then it’s really not working at all.”