Cover for mental ailments still 6 months away

Insurers are working on health policies that will cover mental illnesses, but these could take at least six months to hit the market.

Currently, there are no policies that cover hospitalisation or in-patient treatment for those suffering from mental ailments, although there are some policies that give benefits for outpatient department (OPD) treatments.

Most insurance companies are still designing policies to cover mental illnesses, and are working out the pricing for such policies.

“We are working on various formats, and we have to make changes to the current product design. This will then have to be approved by the regulator before it can be rolled out for customers,” said Nikhil Apte, Chief Product Officer, Product Factory (Health), Royal Sundaram General Insurance.

Ashish Mehrotra, Managing Director and CEO, Max Bupa Health Insurance, said the company has introduced a behavioural counselling feature in its GoActive plan, which offers telephonic counselling to customers dealing with any form of stress or mental anxiety.

“It is yet to be seen how insurance companies will integrate features or design new products to meet the requirements of people dealing with mental health-related conditions. It is definitely a step in the right direction,” he said.

Nearly two months ago, the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) had directed that insurers should make provision to cover mental illnesses on the same basis as is available for the treatment of physical ailments.

The move follows the enactment of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, which provides for mental healthcare and services for persons with mental ailments.

According to industry sources, possible models for such covers could include an add-on to the existing policy, a four-year or even a six-year criteria before the benefits kick in, a sub-limit or a co-pay design, or even a health and wellness tie-up. Insurers underlined the lack of proper statistics on mental illnesses as one of the key challenges in designing policies and determining prices.

“Given the stigma around mental illness, hardly anyone suffering from it openly declares it. So, there is no data on this to help in pricing policies.”