More than 150 million patients with mental illnesses could soon get help with coverage under health insurances, but at a cost — insurers are hinting at an increase in premium.
The Mental Healthcare Bill 2016, which got Lok Sabha’s nod last week, will become law once it receives Presidential assent. The Bill makes it mandatory for insurers to provide insurance to the mentally ill. Health insurers are gearing up to bring mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, under insurance cover.
The progressive provision, however, may result in more expensive insurance products.
Responding to BusinessLine in an email, Antony Jacob, CEO of Apollo Munich Health Insurance, said: “The inclusion of expenses related to mental health could impact the premiums and some insurers may raise premiums. Currently, most of the mental health conditions are treated on an out-patient basis.”
While adding that Apollo Munich’s customised group health insurance plans already cover mental illness, he added that the company was reviewing the Bill to chart out ways to include mental health under its products.
Max Bupa Health Insurance is also in the process of complying with the Bill. Ashish Mehrotra, Managing Director and CEO, said: “There are various ways an insurance company can provide coverage to the people with mental illness, starting from basic hospitalisation coverage to comprehensive managed care services with counselling sessions and medical consultations that would help them get the best treatment for their mental condition. We are evaluating the key parameters and the best way to offer the most comprehensive coverage to such customers.”
While Mehrotra estimates that 5-6 per cent of the population suffers from some mental health concern, a recent survey conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) puts the figure at a much higher 13.7 per cent of the adult population, of which, at least 150 million need immediate medical intervention. This vast number is likely to put pressure on the health insurance providers.
Johnson Thomas, Director and Co-Founder, Aasra Helpline, which works towards prevention of suicides, said while the inclusion under the insurance was a positive step in improving access to mental healthcare for patients, the potential increase in premiums was a concern.
He added that the Bill is a start to a more organised mental health sector which is currently dominated by mom-and-pop shop kind of establishments.