Live Love Laugh...
Article. Published on August 18, 2018.

Insurance to Cover Mental Illnesses in India

mental health insurance

A Step Towards Breaking Stigma

In a significant and historic move the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), has issued a directive to insurers in India to provide health insurance coverage for mental illnesses. The IRDAI has ordered “all insurance companies to comply with the aforesaid provisions of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 with immediate effect.”

In India, mental disorders did not have any insurance coverage prior to this.

IRDAI’s directive comes after the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, came into force on May 29th 2018. The Mental Healthcare Act, under its ‘Rights to equality and non-discrimination’, Sec. 21 (4) specifies that “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.”

This policy is aimed at treating mental health concerns on par with physical illnesses, thereby ‘normalising’ the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and providing awareness on mental health. The insurance coverage would also enable access to qualified mental health professionals and increase accountability.


abuse

While approximately 57 million Indians, suffer from depression as of 2017, India spends only 0.06% of its health budget on mental healthcare. The health insurance sector has seen a double figure growth in last two years. The implementation of the insurance policy marks a step towards recognising the need for mental health care by providing coverage for treatment and care for People with Mental Illnesses (PWMIs).

The Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 states that the insurance companies and its directors are liable for legal action under violation. The Act also notifies a period of a prison sentence for the violation under its Section 108. The Act states:

“Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this Act, or of any rule or regulation made thereunder shall for first contravention be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with a fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees or with both, and for any subsequent contravention with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which shall not be less than fifty thousand rupees but which may extend to five lakh rupees or with both.”

Issues like a lack of scientific data to compute the premium rates for mental disorders or the fact that diagnostic classifications and manifestations of mental illnesses are different in different cultural contexts, have kept mental disorders out of the purview of insurance in India. Mental health professional and activists believe that despite a law in place and the guidelines from IRDAI, the implementation may still prove to be a challenge. For example, there is a lack of clarity on the coverage of illnesses.

The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 supersedes the previous Bill passed in 1987. The Act shifted from the crime-based approach to a rights-based approach, primarily focusing on protecting the rights of PWMIs at the time of diagnosis and treatment. This insurance scheme, specifically, will reduce the financial burden and increase mental health literacy among Indians.

X