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Widow takes on insurer over deperession
Sarah Clozza. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian

A widow is fighting insurance company QBE for refusing to pay a $30,000 travel claim because her late husband had depression.

Sarah Clozza has accused the insurer of unfair discrimination for refusing to reimburse the cost of the trip, which she and her doctor husband Daniel could not take after he was hospitalised for his first bout of depression.

Ms Clozza said the rejected claim came as a shock because a summary of the policy the couple bought before a South African trip planned for September offered "unlimited" insurance for cancellations.

The couple had expected reimbursement for flights, hotels and safari tours after Mr Clozza developed severe acute depression last August and was instructed by doctors not to go away the following month.

QBE rejected the claim in October, pointing out a clause in the fine print that exclusions applied to anyone who had suffered depression or anxiety, among other mental illnesses.

"Legally I don't have a leg to stand on but that doesn't mean I can't make a bit of a fuss about it being morally wrong," Ms Clozza said.

"It doesn't mean that I can't complain that this clause was never made clear to us."

Ms Clozza decided to go public with the matter because the issue had consumed her husband before he took his own life in late December, though there is no suggestion it was a factor in the suicide.

A similar fight is being waged against insurers across the country, with mental health awareness group beyondblue questioning the legality of the discrimination.

It may facilitate a class action against insurers. Many insurance companies exclude customers who had ever suffered depression or anxiety, which is lumped into the same mental illness category as schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder.

Some companies cover people with the conditions, but at premiums of up to 70 per cent more.

Lawyers for QBE said the discrimination was legal because it came within the scope of an exception to the anti-discrimination legislation, and was based on statistical data that the risk of cancellation among people with depression was high.

A QBE spokesman said it generally excluded mental illness because of the range and complexity of mental disorders and the lack of agreement among medical professions about how the range should be classified.

Ms Clozza said it was unjust and dangerous, and could potentially deter people seeking help for the life-threatening conditions.

"I find it totally unjust that they don't cover a common illness," she said.

"And how ludicrous that if my husband had broken his leg we would have been covered."