A recent decision by the Human Rights Division of the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found that QBE Insurance discriminated against Ella Ingram when the insurer refused to pay her travel insurance claim because of a blanket exclusion for mental illness in the policy she purchased.
The VCAT decision will have huge implications for the insurance industry in Australia, who have included these type of exclusions in their policies for many years.
On 18th December 2015 the Human Rights Division of the Victoria Civil and Administrative Tribunal delivered its findings regarding the case of Ella Ingram vs QBE Insurance. The Tribunal found in favour of Ms Ingram, awarding her financial compensation.
Ella Ingram took out travel insurance with QBE in 2011 ahead of a school trip to the USA. However, in the months leading up to the scheduled trip she experienced depression for the first time in her life. Following treatment and advice from family and medical practitioners, she was not able to travel as planned and sought to claim the cost of her trip against her travel insurance. QBE rejected this claim on the basis of a blanket exclusion for mental health in the policy she purchased.
VCAT found that QBE “engaged in unlawful discrimination when it included a mental illness exclusion in the policy issued to Ms Ingram and when it denied her indemnity relying on that exclusion”.
The decision is a huge step forward for reducing the stigma of mental illness in our society.
“While this case will have big implications for the insurance sector generally, it also highlights the stigma and discrimination that people with mental illness experience in many aspects of life,” Mental Health Australia Policy Director Josh Fear said.
“The decision sends a clear message to the insurance industry that it is not okay to discriminate against people on the basis of mental illness. We have been working hard in this area for years, and this case reflects the significant work by Mental Health Australia, beyondblue and other organisations to bring attention to how insurers deal with mental illness.”
“The case itself has been a true David and Goliath struggle, and we are both proud and honoured to be associated with Ms Ingram,” said Mr Fear.
“Her courage and determination in standing up for her legal rights against a large company is an inspiration to many. We hope others who have experienced discrimination based on their mental illness will take heart from this decision and consider taking action themselves.”
“We also hope this outcome will encourage insurers to seek ways to provide fair access to insurance products for people who experience mental illness. We look forward to working with any insurance company to help them do so.”