India: Mentally ill patients to get health insurance cover

In a country with such a large prevalence of mental issues, it would only be natural to expect that institutional support would be robust to tackle this challenge. But surprisingly, no insurance provider seems to have any policy to cover mental illnesses. 

Image source: Google
Image source: Google

Although we are living in a day and age where there have been many groundbreaking advances and innovations in science and technology. At times, we are faced with a stark reminder that more has to be done. One such example pertains to insurance, while there are many kinds of insurance available, such as, home insurance, health insurance, life insurance etc.

It is appalling that there are no insurance companies which provide coverage for people plagued with mental health conditions.

To change this narrative, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has taken a step in the right direction.

It has issued an order to all insurances companies in India to chalk out a policy to cover mental health conditions.

It states that a provision has been made under ‘The Mental Healthcare Act 2017.’

  • Reference is drawn to the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which has come into force with effect from May 29, 2018. As per Section 21 (4) of the said Act, every insurer shall make provisions for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness.
  • All insurance companies are hereby directed to comply with the aforesaid provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, with immediate effect.
  • The order was passed by D V S Ramesh, General Manager, Health (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India)

“There are no questions asked about pre-existing mental illnesses of the prospective buyers from insurance companies, when they ask on other physical illness. Mental illnesses come with a taboo. Society has perception that mental illnesses are not illnesses. It was therefore important that mental illnesses should also get insurance cover. It is necessary that government should press hard on insurance companies to make it available for customers,” said Dr Kaustubh Joag, a psychiatrist at Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune.

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While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr Priyanka Mahajan, a psychiatrist, said, “The government has taken a very good decision. Till now patients suffering from mental illness didn’t have an insurance cover. Treatment of mental illness goes on for years, and it requires a huge amount of money. Due to the poor financial capacity, a number of patients leave the treatment midway. Owing to which a person can likely to become mentally ill. This provision will definitely help thousands of people.”

Dr Om Prakash, Associate Professor, Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, New Delhi said, “No insurance company used to give insurance to the person who is suffering from mental illness. But, Insurance Regulatory Authority of India has taken a big step. Now, people, those who are suffering from mental illness can avail the insurance facility. With this people will come forward to take treatment.”

Dr Pritam Chandak, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, based in Nagpur, “It’s really a welcomed move. Insurance coverage for mental health services has traditionally lagged behind coverage for medical and surgical services in India. There needs to be mainstreaming of mental well-being. This move will encompass several aspects of mental well-being like emotional health and not just mental illnesses alone. Such a change can make people take mental health problems seriously enough that mental well-being is as much of a priority as sound physical health.”

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, Shailesh Mishra, Founder of Silver Innings, an NGO which works for the senior citizens, said, “This is a very good step taken by this government body. Mental health illness is a very big challenge for elderly people. If a person is suffering from schizophrenia, dementia, depression or other mental health conditions who are not provided. This decision will help these people who were at an disadvantage to avail insurance coverage. This is a positive thing, but insurance companies need to be able to cover as many mental health disorders as possible for the benefit of patients admitted in a psychiatric facility.”

Dr Sagar Mundada, a consultant psychiatrist at Health Spring Clinic, said, “This is very positive step taken by the government. Mental conditions are a life-long ailment. Sometime, the treatment cannot be afforded by patients. So the patients do not finish the entire course of their treatment. If these patients get insurance then this patients be relieved from financial constraints. Also this decision will help in changing the mind-set people have about mental illness.”