ABI reveals 83% of insurers regularly review underwriting processes for mental health conditions

Launched in September 2020, the Mental Health and Insurance Standards signifies the insurance industry’s commitment to supporting consumers with prior or existing mental health conditions when seeking insurance.

Related topics:  ABI,  mental health
Tabitha Lambie | Editorial assistant, Barcadia Media
2nd June 2023
Mental Crisis
"The industry still has more work to do, and we’re committed to working with firms and mental health experts to drive this forward."
- Yvonne Braun, director of health and protection policy at ABI

According to the latest Mental Health and Wellbeing in England report, 1 in 6 people aged 16+ have experienced symptoms of a common mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety, in the past week. Likewise, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that the prevalence of depression-related symptoms among adults in the UK has increased by 11% since the Pandemic.

As such, the insurance industry has renewed its efforts to provide support for the increasing number of people suffering from poor mental health.

In 2022, The Association of British Insurers (ABI) surveyed eighteen member companies to assess whether the Mental Health and Insurance Standards have been properly embedded across the industry. The ABI extended this review to include a selection of travel insurance firms, taking the total to, 3 health, 9 protection, 8 travel, and 2 reinsurers.

Divided into four key areas: improving accessibility, asking appropriate questions, communicating and explaining, and improving transparency, ABI’s review found that 88% of those surveyed now include an introduction to their underwriting questions to manage consumer expectations. The remaining 12% confirmed that alternative measures are in place, including information at different stages in the underwriting process and subscriptions to platforms such as Verisk which analyses and converts data into practical tools to support decision-making.  

Likewise, over 2,000 insurer frontline staff and advisers have reportedly completed thousands of e-Learning courses to improve their understanding of mental health. These courses were developed with the not-for-profit Rightsteps, and are accredited by the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII).

Discussing adviser-client communication, of those surveyed 83% said that the underwriting process for mental health conditions is regularly reviewed, using statistically credible evidence, while 94% reported that, on consumer request, explanations for the evidence used to inform policy underwriting are provided.

Although, almost 20% said that mental health exclusions are considered low priority for policy documents and/or relevant communications, it’s important to remember that not all travel insurers exclude mental or physical conditions and often use third parties to assess and communicate the impact of pre-existing medical conditions.

Given the importance of accurate mental health disclosures when applying for insurance, the Mental Health and Insurance Standards hopes to provide guidance for the insurance industry on underwriting application processes, promote transparency for people with pre-existing mental health conditions, and examine ways to improve the manner and presentation of mental health-related questions on underwriting documents. These aims include exploring preventative measures, support services, and rehabilitation centres.

Following feedback from the Mental Health and Money Matters Policy Institute in February 2023, the ABI has now pleaded to review the Mental Health and Insurance hub on its website and provide better explanations for why and how specific data points are used in the insurance industry.

Commenting on these findings, Yvonne Braun, director of health and protection policy at ABI, has said: 

“Our industry wants to make it straightforward for customers with mental health conditions to access its products, and it’s good to see that our members have made progress. The industry still has more work to do though, and we’re committed to working with firms and mental health experts to drive this forward.” 

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