By Amit Chhabra
The stigma surrounding mental health issues is said to have restricted people from seeking treatment for it. One report said that the fear of being viewed differently has resulted in a little over 55 per cent of Indian adults with mental illness not receiving any treatment throughout their lives. It also doesn t help that the cost of treating mental ailments can be high.
But it s not just expenses that restrict people from taking adequate treatment. In fact, India s current healthcare system is not prepared to effectively treat ailments related to mental health. Mental health experts believe that a majority of behavioural conditions in patients with mental illness need to be screened and treated early. Unfortunately, most hospitals lack the minimum amenities required for treating physical and behavioural conditions. The number of mental healthcare specialists in India, which includes behavioural professionals and psychiatrists, is also significantly low. All these factors make it very difficult for patients to obtain effective treatment.
What the IRDA said
With the aim of making mental healthcare available to all, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), in its exposure draft issued last year, asked mental illnesses and several other health issues to be included in all regular health insurance coverage. Under the exposure draft, IRDAI made it quite clear that insurers cannot deny coverage to policyholders who have used opioids or anti-depressants in the past. Also, insurers can t deny coverage to people with a proven history of clinical depression, personality or neurodegenerative disorders, sociopathy and psychopathy.
The IRDAI also directed insurers to include puberty and menopause-related disorders as well as age-related macular problems in regular health insurance schemes. After the directions were issued, many insurers have started developing products that cater to the specific needs of people suffering from mental illnesses.
Insurance products available
Two prominent insurers, Reliance Health Insurance Company and Max Bupa Health Insurance have already introduced health plans which are specifically designed for patients of mental ailments.
Max Bupa s Health Pulse Plan provides cover for treatment of mental disorders. Policy holders are covered up to the entire sum insured. A limited sub-limit is applicable on very few conditions. For now, the plan is restricted to treatment of patients residing in tier 2 and 3 cities. However, the plan will eventually cover people residing in tier 1 cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai.
Similarly, HDFC Ergo s Critical Illness Plan Platinum covers Alzheimer s disease among 15 other critical illnesses.
While Max Bupa s Health Pulse Plan is a regular health insurance cover, HDFC Ergo s Platinum plan is a fixed benefit plan.
The author is the Head of Health Insurance at Policybazaar.com