How does Washington state’s challenge to mental health exclusions in travel insurance affect consumers?

A lawsuit in King County Superior Court is challenging a mental health exclusion in some travel insurance policies.

The state of Washington is challenging insurers’ practice of excluding mental health conditions in travel insurance policies, arguing that it is discriminatory.

This article from USNews.com describes a few cases where consumers’ travel insurance claims were denied by Allianz for mental health reasons:

… cases cited by Ferguson’s office showed that claims were denied even when documentation from medical professionals was provided. Those included instances where an Olympia couple incurred $250 in airline ticket change fees due to their son’s attempted suicide; where a Port Angeles family had to cancel a trip to Asia due to the son’s hospitalization and subsequent outpatient treatment for a severe depressive episode; and where a Tacoma resident canceled a trip to Michigan due to severe anxiety.

From 2019 through September 2021, we’ve received complaints from six consumers related to travel insurance claims being denied for reasons involving mental health.

The state Attorney General is arguing that Washington insurance code and two other state laws — the Washington Law Against Discrimination and the Consumer Protection Act — prohibit mental health exclusions in travel insurance.

In the meantime, here’s our advice for consumers who are considering a travel insurance policy:

  • Read the policy before you buy it. There are many reasons why a travel claim can be denied and you should have a full understanding of what you are buying before you commit.
  • If it’s important that you have insurance, consider a “cancel for any reason” policy. These policies cost more than traditional travel insurance, so you’ll need to weigh the benefit of the policy against the total cost of your trip. Some of these policies are capped at 75% of the value of your trip, so be sure you understand the policy before you buy it.
  • If you have questions about a policy you are considering, contact the insurer for clarification.
Stock photo of a young couple traveling and holding a map
Stock photo of a young couple traveling and holding a map

Commissioner Kreidler has notified companies that issue travel insurance policies of a few changes we’ve made when we review travel insurance policies until the court case is settled.

  • Insurers will not be required to remove mental health exclusions from policies that we’ve already approved. That means there are still a lot of policies out there that exclude mental health conditions from being a payable claim.
  • For new policies that are submitted to us for review, we will not approve any policy language that excludes any mental health conditions, whether they be pre-existing or occur during travel.
  • We will continue to approve travel policies that contain no mental health exclusions if they satisfy all other legal requirements.

Learn more:

Commissioner’s Eye on Insurance

The Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner…

Commissioner’s Eye on Insurance

The Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner protects insurance consumers and oversees the insurance industry.

WA State Office of the Insurance Commissioner

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Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler regulates the insurance industry and protects insurance consumers.

Commissioner’s Eye on Insurance

The Washington state Office of the Insurance Commissioner protects insurance consumers and oversees the insurance industry.