In October 2017, the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) launched its investigation under the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic) into potentially unlawful discrimination against people with a mental health condition in the travel insurance industry. The establishment of the investigation recognised the seriousness and reach of potential discrimination in the travel insurance industry and the importance of travel insurers complying with the law.
There is an increasing understanding and acceptance of mental health conditions and their impact in the community. Yet the Commission was concerned that potential systemic discrimination in the travel insurance industry was affecting the ability of all Victorians to benefit from the safety net provided by travel insurance. With one in five Australians experiencing a mental or behavioural condition in 2017–18, the Commission knew that discrimination in the travel insurance industry had the potential to impact on the lives of many Victorians.
The investigation found that all three of the travel insurers who were parties to the investigation (the party insurers) had discriminated against people with a mental health condition by including a blanket mental health exclusion in their travel insurance policies and failing to indemnify people under those policies. In practice, this means that their insurance policies included terms that refuse cover for an entire category of risk. In this case, the relevant category of risk is a mental health condition. The party insurers also failed to establish that they took sufficient steps to meet their positive duty under the Equal Opportunity Act to eliminate discrimination as far as possible.