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Insurance company sued for discriminating against woman with depression

No matter how many celebrities and high-profile personalities come forward to talk about their experiences with it, depression is still the elephant in the room.

It’s misunderstood and it’s complicated. We’re often reminded that a mental illness is just as difficult and as damaging as a physical one, but unless you’ve suffered from it yourself, or have been close to someone who has, it’s still something that is difficult to grasp.

Teenager Ella Ingram has faced misunderstanding and discrimination first-hand. Having gone through a bout of serious depression during high school, her doctor suggested that going on an already organised and paid for school trip to New York in a couple of weeks was out of the question.

Faced with a medical condition that was prohibiting her from travelling, she approached her insurance company, QBE, to make her $4,293 claim.

More: Depression? There’s an app for that

QBE and many other insurance companies reportedly have a mental illness exclusion policy, which means that they do not legally have to cover a cancelled trip due to mental illness, even if it’s not a pre-existing illness.

According to their travel policies, QBE says they won’t process a claim if they are not told about a pre-existing condition, including mental illness, “in the 60 days prior to the issue of the Certificate of Insurance and in the case of the Annual Multi Trip Travel Plan also within 30 days of booking a particular trip”.

But Ella’s depression was diagnosed after she bought her insurance. Sound confusing? It is; more than confusing, people are calling it downright discriminatory.

Ella has since been in a four-year battle with the insurance company in a landmark court case, which she hopes will result in improved rights for people with mental illnesses.

A report released by Beyond Blue and the Mental Health Council of Australia said that insurance companies are refusing to cover people who have mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

QBE has said that if they covered all claims made by people with depression or mental illness, it “would have imposed an unjustifiable hardship on QBE,” The Australian reported.

More: Young girl’s tattoo says everything we need to know about depression

More than 20 per cent of Australians suffer from depression, and one in two Australians will be affected by mental illness in their lifetime. But, as we are constantly reminded, it is a very real and debilitating disease.

The discrimination doesn’t stop at travel insurance, either. According to a report issued by the Mental Health Council of Australia, of the 500 people suffering with depression interviewed, 45 per cent were denied income protection and 35 per cent were denied life insurance.

“Insurance companies seem to think that there are two kinds of people in the world, and if you’re one of the people with mental illness then you’re excluded from products that we all take for granted,” Frank Quinlan, CEO of Mental Health Australia, told the ABC.

Ella is hoping this landmark court battle against QBE will make a real change for others suffering from the disease and to their insurance options in the future.

Have you experienced issues with your insurance provider? Share your thoughts below.

More: To my patient with depression: What I want you to know

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