World Mental Health Day 2021: Consider buying health insurance plans to cover mental illness

October 10, 2021 1:52 PM

Last year 40% of Indians were suffering from common mental health problems due to Covid-19, as per a survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatric Society.

When you plan to buy a health insurance plan for coverage for mental illness, a crucial point to consider is whether you want Out Patient Department (OPD) or In Patient Department coverage.

Mental health is an important element of an individual’s overall health. It comprises psychological, social and emotional well-being of a person. Mental fitness leads to improvement in productivity, harmonious relationships with other people and ability to cope up with difficult situations. Ever since the pandemic hit across the world, mental health became a far more open and relevant issue.

During the pandemic, people were living in isolation as they confined themselves to their homes and practiced social distancing. Depression, anxiety, and stress became common problems owing to burnout faced because of work from home. All of this led to a realization that the overall well-being of a person comprises not just physical but mental health as well.

Last year 40% of Indians were suffering from common mental health problems due to Covid-19, as per a survey conducted by the Indian Psychiatric Society. The survey was floated to 1,685 respondents. What is more worrisome is that India occupies sixth position for being the most depressed country in the world ahead of the USA and China, said a report from the World Health Organization (WHO). Such startling figures highlight the urgency to shift our focus towards mental health. Every year, October 10 is celebrated as World Mental Health Day to increase awareness around mental health issues and promote their understanding. Various stakeholders deliberate solutions to cope up with this grave issue in order to reduce the number of suicides happening because of mental health problems.

Shift towards mental health awareness

There is a growing need to provide access to patients suffering from mental illness at par with those suffering from a physical ailment. We need to increase the number of mental health centres, councillors and doctors to help people cope up with depression. At the same time, we need to sensitize the community around mental health being a crucial part of our overall well-being, thereby reducing the stigma associated with it. A peer network of patients can be formed so that they can address their issues freely.

Health insurance – a dependable partner

When it comes to mental health, insurance can’t be left behind. In order to make mental healthcare available to all, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) had disseminated guidelines in 2019 stating exclusion of treatment of mental illness, stress or psychological disorders, and neurodegenerative disorders shall not be allowed in health insurance. Following the guidelines, mental illness is now covered by all health insurance plans and considered at par with any other physical illness. So, if you already have a health insurance policy, you are very well protected financially because all kinds of mental illness will be covered by your insurer.

However, if you don’t have a health insurance policy, you should definitely buy one immediately. There’s no doubt that the treatment cost of illness are increasing manifold. The average cost of a psychiatric consultation in India is around Rs 1500. Suppose, you need to visit the psychiatrist 3 times a month, it would cost around Rs 4,500. A comprehensive health insurance plan will certainly come at your rescue in covering these expenses. It would save you from shelling out money from your own pocket at the time of a medical emergency. So, it’s better to be prepared financially than repent later on.

When you plan to buy a health insurance plan for coverage for mental illness, a crucial point to consider is whether you want Out Patient Department (OPD) or In Patient Department coverage. Generally, health insurance plans provide coverage for mental illness as in-patient hospitalization. Therefore, if you want coverage for medical consultation or therapy for mental illness, then you should consider those plans that provide coverage for OPD expenses.

Nowadays, there are a lot of plans which provide coverage for OPD expenses including Care Plus and Star Comprehensive health insurance plan which provides benefits upto Rs 1200/- per year. Similarly, Max Bupa’s Go Activ plan also offers outpatient consultation benefits upto Rs 1500 per year. It is important to check how much OPD coverage is being provided before buying a health insurance plan. For a 30-year old person living in Delhi, a Rs 10-lakh sum insured cover with OPD benefits for coverage of mental illness can cost about Rs 700 per month only. Whereas, if you want a regular health insurance plan for coverage of mental illness as in-patient hospitalization, it will cost around Rs 600 per month.

(By Amit Chhabra, Head-Health Insurance, Policybazaar.com)

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