IRDAI asks insurers to cover mental illness

In a step towards reducing myths and stigma associated with mental illness, IRDAI asked insurers to cover mental illness under medical insurance policy, treating it at par with physical illness.

In a circular, the IRDAI asked insurers to make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness from immediate effect. Insurers today exclude mental illness from medical policies. However, globally companies companies cover mental illness after initial waiting period of two-three years.

The Irdai’s directive follows the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 which has come into force from May 29, 2018. “As per Sec 21(4) of the said Act, every insurer shall make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as is available for treatment of physical illness,” said IRDAI.

Mental healthcare includes analysis and diagnosis of a person’s mental condition and treatment as well as care and rehabilitation of such person for his mental illness or suspected mental illness, according to the Mental Healthcare Act 2017.

“This will ensure a life of dignity to those who have mental health issues,” said Jyoti Punja, Chief Operating Officer and Customer Officer, Cigna TTK Health Insurance Company. “We believe it will certainly create awareness, acceptance, and inclusion when it comes to mental illness as any other ailment, while bringing mental health disorders at par with physical illnesses will ‘normalize’ diagnoses, reducing associated myths and stigma.”

Insurers are looking at IRDA for the definition of mental illness, which is a wide term. As per the Ministry of Law and Justice, mental illness is defined as substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs judgment, behaviour, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet the ordinary demands of life. Also, mental conditions associated with the abuse of alcohol and drugs, but does not include mental retardation which is a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of a person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence.