Mental illness will also receive the serious attention under insurance policies
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Mental illness will also receive the serious attention under insurance policies

The pandemic and lockdown shined a light on a subject that had previously been kept private. There has always been a significant stigma surrounding mental health and wellness. Times after the pandemic are very different. Today, mental illness is treated with the same seriousness as physical illness. Therefore, this has an impact on the insurance industry. In India, physical illnesses including cancer, diabetes, kidney failure, knee replacements, and other physical disorders were given priority over mental health for many years.

Brinda Dutta, 35, found her life reduced to the sum of her symptoms when she was given a diagnosis with depression in the year 2020. She initially blamed her lack of motivation to get out of bed on the winter blues, but her daily routine was controlled by laziness, fear of a fresh day, and sluggishness. Upon first viewing the therapy costs, Dutta was astounded. On a salary of Rs 50,000, she was forced to spend all of her money on weekly therapy at Rs 1,200 per hourly session and another Rs 1,000 per month on medication. She supports her younger sister while she attends college at Delhi University by working for a marketing start-up. “I have four sessions a month, which is quite regularly, but just that raises the price to roughly Rs 5, 000, she claims

There is a ray of light for Dutta and the many others navigating the expensive world of mental healthcare thanks to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) regulating that insurance companies cover mental health. Companies were instructed to apply the new rule by the end of the month after the announcement was made in October of last year. Now, well-known health insurance companies are leading the way in extending their coverage to cover mental health.

Since the Mental Healthcare Act of 2017 was first introduced, it has taken the insurance industry five years to get to this stage. According to the Act, “every insurer shall provide medical insurance coverage for the treatment of mental diseases.” The IRDAI published a circular in 2020 with rules for insurers. The IRDAI pushed harder to make mental health insurance mandatory following Covid—which exposed the flaws in the healthcare industry.

Mental health insurance is a dream in a nation where over 30% of people lack even the most basic of health coverage. Nearly 15% of Indian people need treatment for one or more mental health conditions, according to the National Mental Health Survey of India for FY16 performed by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences.

Anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and psychosis are a few of the disorders that are now covered by insurance.

The precise guidelines, restrictions, and how plans should be formed are not covered by the IRDAI circular, according to the director of Plum, an employee health insurance platform. People have raised complex concerns about what a healthy mental health policy should look like in response to the IRDAI’s decision. This first step is welcomed by psychologists and mental health specialists.

It means there won’t be any more free cases for mental health practitioners. This “significantly reduces the load on therapists as well as on patients in terms of financial help,” says a clinical psychologist.

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