A market for mental health insurance?
Mental health is a subject often not spoken about voluntarily, except by professionals in the field. Mental health insurance is even further from the discussion. There is a shortage of service providers as well as services. Several barriers deter the progression of mental health services in low- to middle-income countries like India, including inadequate funding, concentration of services in urbanized centres, lack of integration with primary care services, and lack of experience and training among mental health professionals.
The new Mental Healthcare Act 2017 includes the following clause under the right to equality and non-discrimination: “21 (4) 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.”
The health insurance industry in India offers individual and family coverage, primarily for physical ailments. In general, coverage includes hospitalization or treatment at hospitals in the country. To indicate the magnitude of health coverage, in 2015-16 health insurance premium collections were Rs27,457 crore, indicating a growth rate of 21.30% compared to the preceding year, according to the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority. With respect to mental health insurance, its multifaceted nature becomes evident based on anecdotal evidence from mental health professionals across the world.
- Health Care