Mental health is considered taboo in India, and many people still hesitate to talk about it. As per the WHO (World Health Organisation) report, India is the most depressed country in the world, with every sixth person suffering from mental illness. Healthcare services for mental illness can be expensive irrespective of its severity. In such scenarios, mental health insurance would be ideal for getting the desired treatment at an affordable cost. So, today we will discuss everything you need to Know about Mental Health Insurance.
Earlier, almost all the insurance providers have excluded mental illness from the health insurance policy they offered. However, the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 that came into force this year has stated, “Every insurer shall make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as it is available for the treatment of physical illness.’’ As a welcome move to mental health literacy, Indian Insurance Regulator IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India) has also directed all the insurance companies to include mental illness in the health insurance policies with an immediate effect. Hence, mental health insurance would be offered within the framework of a normal health insurance policy.
With this new inclusion, every insurance company that is including mental health coverage in their health insurance policy needs to file a fresh product with the IRDAI and revise their pricing for the same. However, the execution of this mental illness inclusion in health insurance looks challenging with the various ifs and buts in the health insurance space.
For example, mental illnesses would require most of the out-patient medical care services such as therapy, counselling and doctor consultation frequently. And, most of the health insurance policies may not offer out-patient healthcare services under the cover. Even if they offer, the coverage would be limited. There are also exclusions and waiting periods for certain pre-existing illnesses and critical medical conditions, which may apply to existing mental illness patients seeking mental health insurance. These existing structure may lead to getting limited benefits in the Mental Health Insurance policy. However, to adhere to the law, insurance companies may draft the mental health insurance plan keeping given pros and cons of every aspect.
Salient Features of Mental Health Care Act, 2017:
Let’s take a look at some of the Mental Health Care Act's salient features, 2017.
- Mental health care needs to be made available, affordable and accessible for every person as they have the right to access mental health care services both by public and private service providers.
- A person with mental illness has the right to choose the way of mental health care treatment, or he/she can nominate any other person to decide on treatments on his/her behalf.
- Responsibilities lie on central and state mental health authorities to maintain records of all mental health establishments, train law enforcement officials, develop quality services, receive complaints, and advise the states on the concerns relating to mental health.
- As per the Act, an attempt to commit suicide is no longer an offense and shall not be subjected to prosecution and investigation.
- The law also talks about prohibiting electro-convulsive therapies for mental illness without any use of anaesthesia and relaxants.
- One of the major significant features is the provision of mental health insurance under the framework of basic health insurance policies offered by the insurance companies.
However, the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 also has some drawbacks. The Act fails to provide the entire list of treatment choices available, increasing the awareness of medical care services available for access. Interpretation of the term ‘medical health professional’ is also defined narrowly without much clarity. The Act also fails to mention home-based treatments as there is more stress on treatments on hospitalisation. Also, the Mental Health Care Act, 2017 does not address the prevention of mental illness and awareness regarding it and the lack of encouragement for mental well-being. All these neglected aspects in the bill may challenge insurance companies in drafting the comprehensive mental health insurance product.
As mental health is equally important as our physical well-being, a good mental health insurance plan can make all the healthcare services affordable. Availability of insurance coverage can improve literacy and facilitate acceptance among people towards mental health conditions. Thus, after knowing everything you Need to Know about Mental Health Insurance, it is easier to decide.
The introduction of mental health insurance facility is an important move for the country's overall well-being.
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