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Travel insurers hail progress after discrimination finding

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Insurers at the centre of a probe into the sale of travel policies with illegal mental health exclusions have pledged to build on changes made since the investigation ended.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission last week released its findings, accusing Allianz, Suncorp and Nib-owned World Nomads Group (WNG) of unlawfully discriminating against mentally ill customers.

“All three party insurers unlawfully discriminated,” the commission says.

“During the investigation period Allianz, Suncorp and WNG had a legal obligation under the Equal Opportunity Act to not discriminate against people with a mental health condition in the provision of travel insurance.”

The findings follow an examination from July 2017 to April last year of more than 365,000 covers sold with discriminating terms related to mental health conditions.

The three insurers have since removed or committed to remove mental health exclusions in travel policies. Zurich-Cover-More, the other non-party insurer in the probe, removed the exclusions in June 2017.

World Nomads Group, which rebranded as Nib Travel in April, has been working with its underwriter Axa XL in recent months to adopt changes the commission proposed.

“As a result, over the course of the following months travellers (with an Nib Travel policy purchased in Australia or New Zealand) who first develop a mental health condition after they purchase a travel insurance policy may be covered for policy benefits,” the insurer says.

“Travellers with pre-existing mental health conditions may also be covered for claims arising from mental health conditions provided they otherwise satisfy the other underwriting criteria.”

Suncorp last year removed blanket exemptions from all its travel policies, a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Further, we now also provide coverage for pre-existing conditions under our Apia, Vero, Suncorp and GIO policies,” he said.

“With about 1 per cent share of the travel insurance market, the number of Suncorp claims declined for mental health conditions was very small.”

Insurance Council of Australia CEO Rob Whelan says the industry’s revised code of practice will probably contain provisions relating to mental health, as insurers look to build on improvements achieved since the investigation began.

“Updating the code is one of a number of steps the [council] and the industry are taking to improve customer outcomes in this important area of public health,” he said.