Insurance industry standards ‘will help customers with mental health conditions’

Insurers have developed standards to provide better support to customers with mental health conditions when they apply for cover.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) launched the Mental Health Standards, to help customers when applying for health, travel or protection insurance.

The standards should mean customers with mental health conditions receive clearer communications in a consistent way across the industry.

They have been developed in consultation with mental health experts, including Mental Health UK and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Action to help customers includes offering two or more choices for how they can communicate with their insurer and giving explanations during the application process about why an insurer is asking a particular question.

Technical jargon will also be removed and there will be more signposting to support services.

The ABI said transparency around decision-making will also be improved, by explaining to customers, upon request, what evidence was used to inform the insurer’s decision on cover, and a commitment from insurers to regularly review their underwriting approach for mental health conditions.

Insurers will have until December 31 2021 to put the standards in place.

Yvonne Braun, director of policy for long-term savings and protection at the ABI said: “Nobody should feel excluded from financial services. Customers across the services sector face too many barriers and insurance is no different.

“People can find it difficult to navigate the increasingly digitised economy, particularly in financial services. For people with mental health conditions, this can be particularly distressing.

“Implementing the mental health standards will help ensure that customers get the right help and support they need when choosing to buy insurance, and is one step to help break down these barriers.”

Sarah Murphy, associate director for advice, information and training at Mental Health UK, said: “Mental illness shouldn’t be a barrier that prevents anyone getting the insurance they need.

“Our research found that applying for insurance has often been a difficult and upsetting process to navigate for people who’ve experienced mental health problems, with over two-thirds of people feeling that they’ve experienced discrimination.

“Thankfully, change is on the horizon and we’re delighted to have supported the ABI to produce these new industry standards and to create the Mental Health & Insurance guide.”

Dr Jed Boardman, social inclusion lead at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “We want to encourage insurers to implement these historic standards as soon as possible, and help the thousands of people living with a mental illness have fair access to insurance.”

John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: “We know that financial shocks can be really damaging for our mental health.

“Insurance products provide a crucial safety net that helps to support mental wellbeing, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Caroline Waters, interim chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “Mental ill-health can affect anyone. Most of us will either experience a mental health condition or know someone who has.

“That is why standards such as these are so important and can go a long way to ensuring that anyone who may be struggling is properly supported in the insurance system.”