Health policies to cover mental illness

The News

  • Insurance regulator IRDAI issued circular directing insurance companies to cover mental illness.



  • The IRDAI’s directive follows the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017.
  • As per Sec 21(4) of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, every insurer shall make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness.
  • Further, according to the Mental Healthcare Act 2017, mental healthcare includes
  • Analysis and diagnosis of a person’s mental condition or suspected mental condition
  • Treatment
  • Care and rehabilitation
  • In short the medical policies should include therapy, medications and hospitalisation.


Mental health insurance in India

  • As per Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, it is mandatory for all providers of insurance in India to have certain policies and provisions in place that account for mental illnesses.
  • However, India currently does not have any distinct insurance coverage for mental health disorders except coverage of development conditions such as autism and Down’s syndrome.


Main issues for insurers

  • Long term treatments
  • Varying costs of treatments
  • Diagnostic dilemmas with many psychiatric problems
  • The lifelong course of many psychiatric disorders
  • Lack of understanding of how mental health diagnostics and costing works.


Impact of Mental health insurance

  • It could also help break the stigma against psychiatric help.
  • Thus more people will seek help for psychiatric problems.
  • Insurance schemes will act as an effective channel for information dissemination relating to mental healthcare.
  • Having efficient insurance policies will drive a market shift towards having more and better trained mental healthcare professionals.


Data on Mental Health

  • According to National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, every sixth Indian needs mental health help.
  • Further according to WHO report of 2017 on depression:
    • Almost 7.5% of Indians suffer from major or minor mental disorders that require expert intervention.
    • 56 million Indians are suffering from depression.
    • Another 38 million Indians suffer from anxiety disorders  including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, phobias, social anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
    • Yet, India spends only about 0.04% of its health budget on mental healthcare.
    • India is also extremely short on the number of mental health professionals.
    • According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there were 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses nationwide, as of December 2015.


About Mental Healthcare Act, 2017

  • It aims to provide for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental illness and ensure these persons have the right to live a life with dignity by not being discriminated against or harassed.

Important Provisions:

  • Every person shall have a right to access mental health care and treatment from mental health services run or funded by the government.
  • It assures free treatment for such persons if they are homeless or belong to Below Poverty Line, even if they do not possess a BPL card.
  • A person with mental illness shall have the right to make an advance directive that states how he/she wants to be treated for the illness and who his/her nominated representative shall be.
  • Central Mental Health Authority to look after regulatory issues like registration, supervision and to set quality and standards in mental health profession.
  • The act also decriminalised suicide.

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