As mental illness gains more awareness and people seek diagnosis and treatment, drawbacks are appearing.
This year kicked off with the recommendation from a government-appointed panel that all new moms and pregnant women receive depression screenings, and while this move toward mental health care improved, drawbacks are being experienced by life and disability insurance customers.
The move to help women to obtain assistance for maternal mental illness is being applauded as a much-needed step.
Public health advocates have been very pleased that pregnant women and new moms will be better able to know whether or not they are being affected by mental illness. Many of these conditions go undiagnosed, which can be very problematic as it can mean that symptoms can continue to worsen and go untreated. However, while this did present good news for helping with mental health, disability insurance companies and some life insurers have been penalizing women who receive diagnoses for various mental health issues such as postpartum depression.
This move by life insurers and disability insurance companies is completely legal in the United States.
However, what it has meant to these women is that if they do receive the diagnosis of postpartum depression – which they do need in order to properly care for themselves and heal from this potentially devastating condition – they could soon find themselves being charged more money for disability coverage or life policies, or they may be declined for coverage, altogether.
The reason is that many insurance companies are labeling women with postpartum depression as being in the same category as people who have received a general depression diagnosis. This means that individuals whose temporary conditions are within the mild to moderate level of severity are being classified in the same way as people who are profoundly depressed over the long term, as well as those who are potentially suicidal or unable to work as a result of their conditions.
These decisions are being made by life and disability insurance companies because mental health awareness and widespread care is relatively recent and, historically, under-diagnosis has been the norm; particularly in milder cases. This has likely distorted the actuarial data that is the basis of the rate setting for insurers.