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living roomIt’s easy to see a broken bone, but it’s harder to prove you’re feeling too distraught to travel. So if you or a loved one has ever struggled with mental illness, don’t count on travel insurance being there to reimburse you if your condition adversely affects your trip.

Two recent articles by NPR and Consumerist offer a cautionary tale about a couple who was refused coverage for a canceled trip due to their son’s mental health emergency (after a medication change, his doctor suggested that he not be left alone). Despite a letter of support from the psychiatrist, the couple was denied their $1,800 claim.

Travel Insurance: What You Need to Know

Travel insurance is not included under the Mental Health Parity Act and Affordable Care Act, which now mandates that health plans must cover preventive services like depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children at no cost, and that most plans won’t be able to deny coverage or charge more due to pre-existing health conditions, including mental illnesses. In fact, on the CDC’s website it says to be aware of “exclusions regarding psychiatric emergencies or injuries related to terrorist attacks or acts of war” when purchasing travel insurance. That means that unless your ailment is physical in nature, don’t expect anything in return for your turmoil from travel insurance.

According to NPR, the National Alliance on Mental Illness has received about 10 complaints about travel insurance discrimination over the past year. Travel insurance is state-regulated, so policies, fine print and subtleties will vary across the U.S. Some states flat-out do not offer mental health coverage or consider it a pre-existing condition. Options at this time seem limited for anyone who struggles with bouts of anxiety, depression or even loved ones who may require additional care.

To me, the stigma attached to mental illness reflects an outdated taboo about real disorders and serious conditions that affect one in four adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Mental Health. In my opinion it is discrimination, and coverage should extend to families who cope with mental health issues as much as it extends to physical ailments. Everyone deserves to travel and not worry about the consequences if they can’t.

Safety and Health Tips for Travelers

What are your thoughts about travel insurance coverage for mental illness? Have you experienced a similar issue with coverage?

— written by Brittany Chrusciel

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3 Responses to “One Surprising Thing That Travel Insurance Doesn’t Cover”

  1. ARLINE MACKAY says:

    I had a client call me because she was afraid to take her husband on a trip they had booked over a year ago, and he was now showing signs of dementia. He had gotten lost at an airport recently when he entered a bathroom one way and exited another way, and she found him crying. When I called the insurance company to initiate a claim for cancellation, I was told mental illness was not a justified covered reason for cancellation and that their claim would be denied. Shortly afterward, the wife was diagnosed with a serious illness, and they were able to receive their $20,000 refund. The doctor who had prepared a letter to justify the claim for the husbands mental illness felt that litigation was called for, and he planned to persue the issue. I tend to agree with him, as there was no way this couple could have traveled next month as the husbands illness has progressed, and they stood to lose a substantial amount of money.

    • connie says:

      Can dementia not be rediagnosed as a neurological illness with physical changes seen on brain scans ?
      Just a question………….

  2. Lynn G. says:

    Mental illness can also be a cause for denial of entry into the United States. There have been documented cases of Canadian travelers who, because of past occurrences where police were involved (notably self-harm or attempted suicide) have been deemed unfit to cross the border — the information is registered in a data base that is accessible to law enforcement agencies. The issue has been deemed unfair by Privacy officials in Canada. It would be interesting to know if travel insurance would cover this type of situation.

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