Depends on your definition of "diagnosed"
March 19, 2020 11:03 AM   Subscribe

I'm shopping for life insurance for the first time ever. One screening question that is commonly asked alongside tobacco usage and driving habits is "Have you ever been diagnosed with depression?" While I have received professional help for depression, I'm not sure if I have ever been formally "diagnosed." Please help me understand how to answer this question.

My confusion comes from the fact that I've never received medical help for my depression in the form of medication or hospitalization.

I have seen counselors and therapists for depression off and on (with multiple years between courses of therapy) over the past twenty years. I have been told by those professionals that I suffer from depression, and that diagnosis makes sense to me. I think it might matter for the purposes of this question that none of those people were "psychiatrists", but I'm not sure.

The only time I have ever spoken to a medical doctor about my depression happened a few months ago. I mentioned my symptoms, both physical and emotional, to my regular doctor at my yearly checkup. I told her that counselors and therapists have told me that I have depression. She offered to write me a prescription for an antidepressant if I wanted one, but I told her that I wanted to try finishing my current period of counseling before going that route. She listened and as far as I can remember, did not write me the prescription.

I think it's worth noting that I have never felt motivated to harm myself because of my depression. Even at my very lowest points, I have not considered ending my life which is what I think the question is really getting at.

I want to be honest in how I answer the "have you ever been diagnosed" question, both because it's generally right to be honest and because I don't want to give the company any excuse not to pay out if I do happen to die in a car accident or something.

So, if you were me, how would you answer that question?
posted by Chuck Barris to Health & Fitness (12 answers total)
Say no.

Depression puts you are greater risk of death as does smoking or poor driving habits.

Since you have never been motivated to harm yourself say no.
posted by loveandhappiness at 11:12 AM on March 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

If your therapists were paid with insurance money, you have been diagnosed. Insurance payouts requite a provider to 'diagnose' you. This is tricky in lots of ways (for example, I have CPTSD, but there's not 'diagnosis code' for that, so technically as far as any legit medical/insurance body knows, I have major depression, anxiety, and regular old vanilla PTSD.

Before obamacare and the elimination of preexisting condition, this is why many people paid their providers in cash, to keep these prexisting mental health conditions under the radar.

Answering no, is probably in the context of insurance, considered fraud (IANAL, yo). There's probably lots of fine print that if you don't disclose this, they don't have to pay out shit (I mean, that's probably most of the fine print in a life insurance claim though). This probably just means that you're going to get charged a little more.
posted by furnace.heart at 11:13 AM on March 19, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If I had used health insurance to pay for treatment (sessions with a therapist or psychiatrist) there is documentation of that in the form of standard treatment codes, so I'd probably answer it truthfully.

If it came time for a claim on your life insurance policy within the first two years, the insurance company could contest and deny payment on the basis of incomplete documentation of your health history.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:28 AM on March 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: They sucked his brains out (wow great handle!) is correct.

However conversely, after the one or two year contestability period, there will be no problem with a claim. And forget about fraud, this absolutely does not rise to that level. You have a sincere, reasonable doubt about the meaning/intent of the question since to your knowledge there was never a diagnosis.

If the insurance company determines during the underwriting process that you were under treatment for depression (thus the answer to the question should have been yes) they will simply offer you the policy at a slightly increased premium. That's all. No biggie. Stuff like this happens all the time.

Treatment for depression under most circumstances will not result in a declination of coverage. Instead it will be viewed as an indication of slightly higher risk for the insurance company, which is why they would ask for a little more money. They will still be happy to provide insurance coverage.

I am a former insurance agent from the United States. If you hail from outside the USA ignore this response.
posted by elf27 at 11:49 AM on March 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: If you have MyChart or (another electronic record system you can access), things your PCP has currently diagnosed should be there under "health history" or something like that. But I'd say counselors/therapists having told you constitutes a diagnosis for this purpose, even if they've somehow never formally charted it (unlikely). Depression alone isn't really the kind of thing anyone feels the need to run past a psychiatrist prior to diagnosing, in my experience.
posted by teremala at 11:51 AM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think this boils down to "has a diagnosis of depression been put on your official medical records" or not.

If if has been, then the cat's already out of the bag.
If it hasn't been (say, if you've seen counselors/therapists NOT through insurance but paid on your own), then I wouldn't say officially that you have been diagnosed.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:59 AM on March 19, 2020

I'm trying to be helpful not snarky when I say, I think you should ask your doctor what, if anything, was diagnosed and put on your records.
posted by jeffmilner at 12:11 PM on March 19, 2020

You should absolutely answer NO. You aren't expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything your doctors jotted down in their own notes. Did you receive a piece of paper from them with a big shiny diagnosis of Depression? Didn't think so. Don't search any further, and put NO.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 12:39 PM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I noticed that there has been some discussion about the fact that it matters whether or not my therapy was covered by insurance. I used an Employee Assistance Plan offered by my work to pay for therapy at the end of last year, and my therapist did bill the insurance company. That was the first time I had ever paid for therapy using insurance.

When I look at it that way, it seems pretty clear that I HAVE been diagnosed with depression, right?
posted by Chuck Barris at 1:29 PM on March 19, 2020

Best answer: You should absolutely answer NO. You aren't expected to have an encyclopedic knowledge of everything your doctors jotted down in their own notes. Did you receive a piece of paper from them with a big shiny diagnosis of Depression?

This is not how diagnosis in mental health works. Cite: I am not an expert but I've been a patient on this side of things for a decade and my wife is a mental health therapist.

When I look at it that way, it seems pretty clear that I HAVE been diagnosed with depression, right?

Yeah, it really does. Again, life insurance companies will actively attempt to find mistakes you've made to avoid payout. You likely won't get denied for this, just have a slightly higher payment you'll need to make.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:47 PM on March 19, 2020

Best answer: When I look at it that way, it seems pretty clear that I HAVE been diagnosed with depression, right?

My insurance company keeps "Explanation of Benefits" documents on its website. I can log in to their site with my username and password to review these documents, which usually have "treatment", "service", or "diagnosis" codes printed next to line items.

These codes describe what medical care I received, usually in some category, to decide how much to reimburse the medical provider. In my case, these are so-called "CPT" codes. There are other categories of codes, I think, but CPT is a common code system.

Perhaps check with your health insurance company's website, to see if similar documentation is available for your account.

Sometimes all that is shown is the code, which is not of much use on its own. If you can find such codes for benefits you received for your therapy visit, you could look up them up on sites like this (or others) to see what diagnosis the code refers back to.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 4:29 PM on March 19, 2020

Best answer: Licensed therapists are healthy care professional capable of making a diagnosis that is within the scope of their license and training. They don't have to be an MD or psychiatrist for it to count.
posted by metahawk at 11:43 PM on March 19, 2020

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