Mental health organisation beyondblue has criticised insurers for refusing some types of cover to people who suffer from depression and anxiety and is now calling for new legislation.
The organisation wants penalties for insurers who discriminate by either refusing to provide some types of cover, such as life and travel insurance, or charging higher premiums.
Kate Carnell, chief executive of beyondblue was reported in Fairfax Media as stating the problem had stopped some people from accessing potentially life-saving treatment, such as counselling and antidepressants.
She said the discrimination occurred because insurers lumped together all types of mental illness, such as schizophrenia and depression, when assessing risk profiles.
Carnell said penalties such as higher premiums were only lawful if the customers posed a heightened risk, but claimed there was no data to support claims that people suffering depression or anxiety were higher-risk than those who did not have the illnesses.
"More than three million Australian currently have a mental illness, but if they try to get insurance they may face discrimination that adds to their stress, stops them from insuring themselves and discourages them from seeking treatment," she said.