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There has been a substantial rise in mental health issues due to the covid-19 pandemic. Depression and anxiety lead to such problems.

While many people rushed to buy health policies to handle the challenges and meet the sudden rise in medical costs, it is increasingly essential for them to also check whether the insurance policies cover mental health issues.

Ankit Agrawal, chief executive officer and co-founder, InsuranceDekho, said, “For a long time, health insurance policies didn’t cover mental illnesses in India. But fortunately, we are now seeing a shift in the trend. Some time back, all health insurance companies were only covering physical health issues and disorders. But now, a few are offering cover for psychological disorders as well."

If we go by the definition of mental illness, there are two explicit exclusions in them. First, the policies would not cover mental retardation. Second, they would also exclude outcomes due to abuse of drugs or alcohol.

The shift has been in line with directions of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (Irdai). The insurance regulator had asked health insurance companies to add mental illnesses to all regular health insurance coverage.

Also, it has told them not to deny health insurance coverage to policy buyers who have used antidepressants or opioids in the past.

“Adhering to the guidelines of Irdai, some insurers offering health insurance plans have already started customizing their products to include cover for mental illnesses. Max Bupa Health Insurance, ICICI Lombard, Aditya Birla Health Insurance Company, HDFC Ergo General Insurance and Digit General Insurance are a few popular insurers that have introduced health insurance policies specifically designed to cover people suffering from mental illnesses. Generally, health insurance plans offered by these insurers cover in-patient hospitalization expenses for mental illness. But outpatient counselling or therapy is covered only if the policy offers outpatient department (OPD) benefits," said Agrawal.

What you should do: So, suppose you are looking for a health insurance policy with cover for mental illnesses, you must check if the disorder requires hospitalization or therapy, and whether medication would be adequate to treat it. In the former case, you must choose a comprehensive indemnity policy that covers hospitalization. While in the case of the latter, you must go for a policy that covers OPD.

The importance of cover for mental health treatment in health insurance has gained significant attention, especially during the covid-19 pandemic.

“Apart from several other issues, the pandemic led to a rise in poverty and unemployment, too, both of which are associated with a higher incidence of mental health issues. And these health issues, if not treated well in time, may worsen the situation in many cases," said Agrawal.

“Apart from their severity, the treatment for mental health issues can be hard on the pocket, and not everyone may be able to afford the same. This is why, when choosing a health insurance company, it is important to go with the one that offers adequate cover for mental health issues and related expenses under its health insurance plans," said Agrawal.

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