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In The News

Peak Mental Health Bodies Seek Immediate Resolution Of Discriminatory Insurance Parties
Monday 4th June 2001
Dr Michael Wooldridge
Minister for Health and Aged Care

The Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA) and beyondblue, the National Depression Initiative, have called on the Investments & Financial Services Association for an immediate round table discussion regarding Insurance companies practices for people who, or have, experience mental health disorders.

Mr John McGrath Chair of the MHCA stated;

"The MHCA has been informed of Insurance companies declining insurance policies to people who have experienced mental illness. These claims have covered all insurance policy areas from health insurance to income protection. If the Council is able to substantiate these claims and not successfully resolve what would appear to be discriminatory practices, it will have no option but to take this issue to the Human Rights Commissioner."

Mental Illness makes up 30 % of the non-fatal burden of disease in Australia. Over One million Australians experience a mental illness, the most prevalent being depression and anxiety related disorders.

Mr Des Graham, Chief Executive Officer of the MHCA stated;

"If this discriminatory practice is as wide spread as the anecdotal evidence suggests then it is paradoxical to the excellent work that both the health and community organisations have been undertaking in promoting mental health and de-stigmatise mental illness. It is also contrary to the Governments campaign to encourage Australians to take out private health insurance.

The Mental Health Council of Australia and beyondblue has invited consumers and carers to contact the MHCA and beyondblue with their reports of any incidences where they have been declined insurance coverage of any type by insurance companies. It has also called on consumers and carers to report those companies that have provided insurance coverage so that in the interim period the Council and Beyond Blue can refer the overwhelming number of people that have made contact to consumer focused insurance companies.

"The Council, as the peak Non Government mental health body in Australia will work in close partnership with Beyond Blue, the national depression initiative, to address this extremely important issue which is impacting on the lives of so many Australians. The Human Rights Commissioner in 1993 concluded that people with mental illness are among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our community. It is a shame that this statement continues to be true eight years later." Mr McGrath said.

©Commonwealth of Australia. Reproduced with Permission

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