The short answer is yes, you can get health insurance if you currently have or have previously suffered from depression, anxiety or mental illness. Suffering from a medical condition such as depression will not affect your ability to buy health insurance, nor will it increase the premiums you pay, however it may impact what you can make a claim on, which we go into more detail later in this article.
Firstly, we need to explain how a health insurance provider will look at your application (a process known as underwriting). This is key to understanding exactly what you can make a claim on. If you already know how health insurance is underwritten, then you may want to jump to "Which health insurance provider covers depression, anxiety or mental illness?"
Health Insurance underwriting explained
When applying for health insurance, there are two types of underwriting and they are:
- Full medical underwriting
There is technically another type of underwriting titled 'continued health'. This can be selected if you already have a health insurance policy (and thus have already selected a moratorium or full medical underwriting option) and then decide to move insurance companies. As your policy transfers from one provider to another, it is underwritten on a 'continued health' basis.
Moratorium underwriting explained
With a moratorium policy you only need to provide limited medical information, usually answering just four or five yes or no questions. A moratorium policy will usually commence far quicker in comparison to a fully underwritten policy. Applying for a moratorium policy is more convenient, but you will not have full clarity on what you are covered for as you will not have been fully medically underwritten at the time of the application.
Conditions which you have sought medical advice or treatment within the last 5 years will be excluded, however, those exclusions are removed so long as you have not received any treatment, advice or medication for a period of 2 years or more (from the date that you take out a policy).
Full medical underwriting explained
A fully underwritten health insurance policy is where you complete a full application, providing all of your medical information to the insurance company for them to fully assess you. It may take longer for the cover to commence and you may have exclusions applied, but you will know exactly what you are covered for from the inception of the policy.
Does health insurance cover depression, anxiety or mental illness?
With a moratorium policy, a health insurance provider would exclude any conditions for which you have had sought medical advice or treatment within the previous 5 years. So, if you suffer from depression, anxiety or mental illness and have sought advice or treatment within the last 5 years, you would not be able to make a claim on your health insurance policy for anything relating to that specific condition. You are of course free to make a claim on anything that is not specifically related to depression, anxiety or mental illness.
The good news however is that with a moratorium policy, a health insurance provider will cover you for depression, anxiety or mental illness if you remain symptom, advice and medication-free for 2 years (from the date that you take out a policy with them). So, if your condition is mild and well-controlled, a moratorium policy is often a good solution as it provides more flexibility when compared to a fully underwritten health insurance plan.
Can I get health insurance cover for depression on a fully medically underwritten health insurance policy?
There are rare occasions when a fully medically underwritten policy may be the better solution. Most health insurance providers will review exclusions applied for depression, anxiety or mental illness; the period in which they review the exclusion varies by insurer, see our table below for clarification. If you have a fairly uncomplicated medical history, then you could opt to be fully medically underwritten, because even if an exclusion is applied, it could be reviewed in the future and removed.
Think carefully before selecting this option however as there may be information in your medical past that you had forgotten about that will lead to further exclusions. With Bupa, they will review exclusion's applied for depression, anxiety or mental illness every 12 months, so you could effectively be covered for depression within 1 year of taking a policy out, compared to 2 years if you took out a policy on a moratorium basis.
Can I pay extra to ensure my health insurance covers depression, anxiety or mental illness?
Yes, some insurance companies offer additional cover, sometimes referred to as 'enhancements' or 'bolt-ons'. These additional policies are underwritten separately and so could still be declined, however, if accepted they can offer additional insurance including both in-patient and day-patient treatment if you’re diagnosed with acute psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia or clinical depression. The Exeter, Axa PPP and Aviva all have mental health enhancement options.
Which health insurance provider covers depression, anxiety or mental illness?
In our tables below, we look at 5 of the biggest health insurance providers and summarise their underwriting process when it comes to depression, anxiety or mental illness.
|Aviva||Axa PPP||Bupa||The Exeter||Vitality|
|Moratorium||Standard moratorium definition||Standard moratorium definition||Standard moratorium definition||Standard moratorium definition||Standard moratorium definition|
|Full Medical Underwriting||Reviewable - not specified (case by case basis)||Reviewable every 2 years||Reviewable every 12 months||Reviewable - not specified (case by case basis)||Reviewable every 5 years|
|Mental Health Option||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No|
Standard moratorium definition: Conditions in which you have sought medical advice or treatment within the last 5 years will be excluded, however, those exclusions are removed if you have not had any treatment or exhibited any further symptoms for 2 years.
What is the best way to buy health insurance if I currently have or have previously suffered from depression?
You have no doubt heard of well-known health insurance providers such as Axa Health, Bupa and Vitality, but there are other lesser-known companies - such as The Exeter - that provide excellent private health insurance and so you should always do a comprehensive comparison before you commit to one insurer particular insurer.
The best way to buy private health insurance is to speak to an independent specialist as not only do they have access to every insurer, they also understand which conditions are covered and which conditions are likely to be excluded for each insurer. An independent specialist* will be able to find you the best policy for your own unique circumstances. If you have a set budget, for example, they will shop around to find you the most comprehensive cover to fit your needs.
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