Q: Liability or Insurance Panel Applications that Ask about any Serious
Mental Health Diagnoses
From your experience with patients or peers, how would you say a recently (1 yr)
diagnosed BP II in a professional position, could best complete liability or
insurance panel applications that ask about any serious mental health diagnoses?
Can I say bipolar spectrum or would that be considered evasive? Would it help to
add that there have been no hospitalizations or suicide attempts? Are
monthly appts with a psychiatrist looked at as a safety
net, or as ongoing trouble? If meds have to be tweaked up or down (seasonally),
can I still say I am stable? Have you heard of people being denied even if there
are no other negatives? Any thoughts would be helpful.
Dear Ms. A --
This is a common question but that does not have a very
good or clear answer. There are at least three different kinds of disclosures
relevant here, probably more. First, let us take applications for medical
insurance, although I think you are asking about two others we will examine in a
Some medical insurances, for example when one switches policies, have a
"pre-existing conditions" limitation. How one answers questions about this
depends on the severity of your condition. In some cases, one might be able to
use the fact that subtle versions of bipolar disorder are "undiagnosable" by DSM
criteria to avoid having to list that condition, although in many of those cases
one would probably have to list "depression" unless one has not been treated for
I think, however, that you are asking about professional liability insurance
such as for a medical professional. In this case, to make sure there is no way
your policy could be called into question, I think you are forced to list
Bipolar II if that was a formal diagnosis that has been entered into a medical
record for you, somewhere. If that was the diagnosis, you would have to use
Bipolar II as such; otherwise I often choose BPNOS as it is even more vague and
requires someone to do some homework to understand it which may keep them from
doing so unless they are really invested.
As for insurance panel applications, in my view they have no business asking.
They don't ask about other conditions that might limit your ability to serve
patients, such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease. What gives them the right
to ask about mental health conditions? I think this is a continuation of a
long-standing stereotype and can be justly refused by simply omitting that
information, although this is my opinion and if there were any question about
it, you might want to consult an attorney.
Although I'm laughing as I say this, I doubt there are any circumstances in
which monthly appointments with a psychiatrist are looked at as a good thing.
Indeed, I think they are generally viewed as "ongoing trouble", as you put it.
Adjusting medications up and down is the norm for this condition, even when
things are "stable", with the goal of achieving the absolute optimum balance
between symptom control and side effects/ongoing risks. Therefore such
medication adjustments are definitely within the realm of "stable".
I have not heard of people being denied professional liability insurance nor
being prevented from joining an insurance panel because of their diagnosis, but
I would only know from my own patients, only a few of whom are medical
professionals, so I don't have an adequate database to give you a good answer on
this one. I can imagine that it could have been, given the way the world works.
Good luck with all that.
Published March, 2007