FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Almost half of people with mental health problems ‘never’ disclose their illness to their travel insurer, as premiums soar for those who do

22 August 2018

 

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute is today calling for radical reforms to the travel insurance industry. New research reveals that almost half of people with mental health problems (45%) ‘never’ disclose their illness to their travel insurer, potentially invalidating any insurance they might take out. Those who do disclose face significantly higher premiums, limited access to cover or cover that excludes their mental health problems as a result. The charity is asking the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to formally review whether travel insurance pricing for this group complies with the Equality Act 2010.

Through nationally representative polling, of over 2,000 people, the charity found that, of those who had tried to buy travel insurance in the last five years:

  • Nearly half (45%) of people with mental health problems ‘never’ disclose their illness to their travel insurer, compared with around one in twenty (6%) with physical health problems.
  • One in three people with mental health problems have travelled with no insurance to cover their mental health, either because they didn’t take out insurance because it was too expensive (13%) or because their mental health was excluded from the cover they could get (21%).

Through a mystery shopping exercise, the charity found that several insurers hiked premiums by over 400% for people who disclosed mental health problems that have been stable and effectively managed for a very long time, with some insurers still declining to offer cover. Premiums shot up by between 500% and 2,000% for those who disclosed more severe mental health problems, with most insurers either declining to offer cover at all or only offering cover that excluded mental health. The polling found that 43% of people with mental health problems felt that these high premiums were unfair, and 13% didn’t take out travel insurance as a result.

 

The charity’s Director, Helen Undy, said: “Extremely high premiums and limited access to appropriate cover leave many people who have mental health problems struggling to get suitable travel insurance. We are pleased that the regulator has plans to improve signposting to specialist insurers, but this only addresses part of the problem. When an historic episode of depression leaves you unable to afford travel insurance, or you’re charged more for cover that states it won’t pay out for anything related to your mental health, it’s no wonder it feels unfair. Half of us will experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives, which could have a long-term impact on our access to insurance. If the mainstream travel insurance market doesn’t work for half of customers, then it’s really not working at all.

“The way insurance companies calculate risk, and set their prices, is determined behind closed doors. Only the regulator has the data needed to check if it’s truly fair. Given the high prices that many people with mental health problems face, and the harm they experience as a result, it’s time the regulator took a closer look.”

 

The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute, founded by Martin Lewis in 2016, is calling for:

  • The FCA to formally review the fairness of travel insurance pricing for people with mental health problems, including asking firms to demonstrate that their pricing complies with the Equality Act 2010.
  • Insurers to proactively alert customers with mental health problems to all relevant exclusion terms and other conditions, so that they don’t have to search through the Ts and Cs to find out if their mental health will be covered.
  • Insurers to improve their disclosure processes, so that people with mental health problems aren’t required to repeatedly disclose to call centre staff who have little specialist training.

Read the full research at www.moneyandmentalhealth.org/travelinsurance (from 22/08/2018, embargoed copies on request).

 

ENDS


Contact:

Helen Undy, 07827917829, helen.undy@moneyandmentalhealth.org for all media enquiries including interviews with spokespeople. CASE STUDIES AVAILABLE.


Notes to Editors

  • The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute was set up by Martin Lewis in spring 2016, registered charity number 1166493.
  • It conducts research and develops policies for essential services firms, regulators, the health service and government to help people with mental health problems protect themselves from financial difficulties and get out of debt.
  • Martin Lewis OBE, Money Saving Expert, is an award-winning campaigning broadcaster, newspaper columnist and author. He founded MoneySavingExpert.com in 2003 for £100 and remains its full-time Editor-in- Chief. It is now the UK’s biggest money site, with more than 14 million monthly users. Martin has his own prime-time ITV programme – The Martin Lewis Money Show – and is resident expert on This Morning, Good Morning Britain and BBC Radio 5 Live’s Consumer Panel, among others.
  • Helen Undy is a passionate mental health campaigner and became the Institute’s Director in 2018, having previously led the Institute’s impact and communications work.

Methodology

  • Money and Mental Health carried out an online survey of 2,078 adults (18+) across the UK in partnership with Populus between 11-13 May 2018. Data was weighted to be representative of the UK population.
  • 31% of respondents (649 people) said that they had experienced a mental health problem.
  • Figures about views on travel insurance are based only on those people who reported that they had tried to purchase travel insurance in the last five years. 1,008 people (48% of respondents) said they had tried to buy travel insurance in the last five years.
  • One in three people (31%) with a mental health problem who have tried to purchase travel insurance in the last five years went without cover for their health conditions because they either had insurance which did not cover their health conditions or travelled without insurance because it was too expensive. The 31% figure refers to the proportion of the relevant sample who have travelled without insurance for at least one of these two reasons which are not exclusive.
  • Populus is a founding member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. See www.populus.co.uk for more details.
  • Money and Mental Health also carried out a mystery shopping exercise to assess prices for travel insurance across the market. We compared quotes offering as similar a level of coverage as possible for a single man in his thirties for a one week trip to Spain. We checked quotes across six major insurers, two smaller insurers and three specialist insurers, comparing prices to a person in identical circumstances but without any health problems taking the same trip at the same time.