So it’s probably wrong to think that the government needs to respond to an issue, if nobody knows it exists. The problem needs to be measured: this is an area of some serious issue. This brings me back to the role of CommInsure as an insurer or the insurance industry per se. Over recent times, the life insurance industry has realised the need to become more proactive in understanding and recognising that we can do better to prevent or mitigate or manage or control, rather than just receive a piece of paper that’s been filled out, check the conditions, pay money and hope for the best. But, is this something that’s keeping us awake day and night? Not really. There’s talk about it, but this isn’t the most important thing that’s on our managing director’s agenda right now. I suspect we will have to do an awful lot differently. It’s not one part of the very complex interweb of activities that’s going to fix this.

It’s how we collaborate. SuperFriend sounds to me to be an extraordinary example of a start to this, but it’s how we turbo charge that? Colin Tate: Can you tell me what is on your MD’s mind the most, or your mind the most, out of interest? Mark Woodward: We haven’t placed the customer at the front of everything we do to the extent that we could do. We could be doing things with a great deal more innovation, and 21st century thinking. Pat (McGorry) described the facilities for mental health as being almost Dickensian. Life insurance is probably just one step removed from that, and that’s something this industry has to confront. Colin Tate: It’s the largest reason for claims from people under 40 years of age, so it would be a high priority, a huge cost to your business. Mark Woodward: Absolutely. It’s the insights around data, and often those insights aren’t as apparent as they could be. We have a responsibility to realise that and find ways to put them there. Damian Hill: The data collection that SuperFriend is starting is an important part of that. Changes to products are starting to help as well. You’re talking about life insurance being Dickensian – the design of products has certainly been that for a long time. Just over 12 months ago, REST increased death insurance and changed the model.

One of the more important parts of mental health for insurers is the disabling. In the group environment, this has been a relatively modest lump sum. The insurer gets a piece of paper and we go through some processes. Then we give the disabled person a lump sum and they work out what to do with it. By and large, it’s totally insufficient. We’ve introduced long-term income protection benefit for all our REST members. They’re on the low socio-economic end and so we’re trying to provide a very small lump sum for changes to their house or car that may be necessary. We’re also trying to get that income stream going, because social security is completely insufficient. It barely provides accommodation or food, but in respect to care, it’s totally insufficient. The challenge for the insurance industry is to get people rehabilitated, and saving for a retirement benefit. But during the time they’re disabled, there might be periods in and out of disablement, and they can continue to earn an income. Pat McGorry: We’ve done follow-up work on 700 young people we’ve treated (through Orygen in Melbourne) over eight years, and definitely what Damian was saying is right. Young people (with mental illnesses) go in and out of the workforce, and they have periods of ill health. It’s quite unpredictable.

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