Travel Insurance Plans – Et tu?

We already know that most health insurance plans don’t really cover mental health treatment like they do other health care treatment. Rarely are in-home services or adult residential treatment or crisis homes covered. We know that most disability insurance plans have a limit on coverage for mental health conditions – such as two years – but don’t have similar limits on other health care conditions.  And travel insurance plans exclude from coverage trips cancelled due to a mental health condition or suicide.

A NAMI member whose husband had taken his life prior to a big trip that they had planned called me about this. The U.S. Fire and Insurance Company, which provided the Worldwide Trip Protector Plan, wrote to her expressing their sympathies and then denying the claim. They quoted from their policy, which stated, “Benefits are not payable for any loss due to, arising or resulting from…1. Suicide, attempted suicide or any intentionally self-inflicted injury of you, a travelling companion, family member or business partner booked to travel with you, while sane or insane.”

We also know that Social Security views death by suicide differently. Survivors may not receive benefits if the person if the death was found to be intentional.   In materials it states, “If your loved one is found to have been under the influence of a severe mental illness, the act is not considered to be ‘intentional and voluntary.’ Severe isn’t really defined and not everyone who takes or attempts to take their own life has been previously diagnosed with a serious mental illness.

This is something that should be changed, and NAMI has already reached out to some members of our congressional delegation about it.

Just six weeks ago (July 26), our country celebrated the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act 29 years ago. As President Bush stated we needed to “tear down the wall of exclusion.” The ADA’s promise of equal treatment and inclusion has clearly not been realized by people with mental illnesses. It was bad enough that health insurance and long-term disability policies discriminate against mental illnesses, and now travel insurance too?