Mental health is an important part of the overall health of an individual. It includes the psychological, social and emotional well-being of a person. Mental health leads to improved productivity, harmonious relationships with others, and the ability to cope with difficult situations. Since the pandemic hit the world, mental health has become a much more open and relevant issue.
During the pandemic, people lived in isolation as they confined themselves to their homes and practiced social distancing. Depression, anxiety, and stress have become common issues due to burnout from working from home. All of this has led to the realization that the general well-being of a person includes not only physical health but also mental health.
Last year, 40% of Indians suffered from common mental health problems due to Covid-19, according to a survey by the Indian Psychiatric Society. The survey was launched with 1,685 respondents. What is more worrying is that India is in sixth place for being the most depressed country in the world ahead of the United States and China, according to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). These startling figures underscore the urgency of focusing on mental health. Every year, October 10 is celebrated as World Mental Health Day to increase awareness of mental health issues and promote their understanding. Various stakeholders are considering solutions to deal with this serious problem in order to reduce the number of suicides attributable to mental health problems.
Towards mental health awareness
There is a growing need to provide access to patients with mental illness on a par with those with physical illness. We need to increase the number of mental health centers, counselors and doctors to help people cope with depression. At the same time, we need to make the community aware that mental health is a crucial part of our overall well-being, thereby reducing the stigma associated with it. A network of patient peers can be formed so that they can freely discuss their problems.
Health insurance, a reliable partner
When it comes to mental health, insurance cannot be ignored. In order to make mental health care accessible to all, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) issued guidelines in 2019 stating that exclusion from treatment for mental illness, stress or psychological disorders, and that neurodegenerative disorders are not allowed in health insurance. According to the guidelines, mental illness is now covered by all health insurance plans and considered like any other physical illness. So if you already have a health insurance policy, you are very well financially protected as all kinds of mental illnesses will be covered by your insurer.
However, if you don’t have a health insurance policy, you should definitely purchase one immediately. There is no doubt that the cost of treating the disease is increasing multiple times. The average cost of a psychiatric consultation in India is around Rs 1500. Suppose you had to see the psychiatrist 3 times a month, it would cost around Rs 4,500. A comprehensive health insurance plan will certainly come to your rescue by covering these expenses. This would save you from spending money out of pocket in a medical emergency. So it is better to be financially prepared than to repent later.
When considering purchasing a health insurance plan for mental illness coverage, a crucial point to consider is whether you want outpatient service (DPO) or patient care service coverage. Typically, health insurance plans cover mental illness in the form of hospitalization. Therefore, if you want coverage for medical consultation or therapy for mental illness, you should consider plans that cover expenses related to OPD.
Nowadays there are many plans that cover OPD expenses including Care Plus and Star Comprehensive Health Insurance which offers benefits up to Rs 1200 / – per year. Likewise, Max Bupa’s Go Activ plan also offers outpatient consultation services up to Rs 1,500 per year. It is important to check the amount of OPD coverage before purchasing a health insurance plan. For a 30 year old person living in Delhi, insured coverage of Rs 10 lakh with OPD benefits for mental illness coverage can cost around Rs 700 per month only. Whereas, if you want regular health insurance plan for mental illness coverage as hospitalization, it will cost you around Rs 600 per month.
(By Amit Chhabra, Health Insurance Manager, Policybazaar.com)