Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) has asked insurers to cover mental illness under medical insurance policy from immediate effect, treating it at par with physical illness. At present, insurers exclude mental illness from ambit of medical insurance policies.
IRDAI’s directive follows Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 enacted by Parliament and came into force from May 2018. The section 21(4) of said Act mandates every insurer to make provision for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness on same basis as available for treatment of physical illness. According to provisions of the Act, mental healthcare includes analysis and diagnosis of person’s mental condition and treatment as well as care and rehabilitation of such person for his mental illness or suspected mental illness.
As per Ministry of Law and Justice, mental illness is defined as substantial disorder of thinking, mood, perception, orientation or memory that grossly impairs behaviour, judgment, capacity to recognise reality or ability to meet ordinary demands of life. It also includes mental conditions associated with abuse of alcohol and drugs, but does not include mental retardation which is condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind of person, specially characterised by subnormality of intelligence.
Bringing mental illness under medical insurance policy, will ensure life of dignity to those who have mental health issues. It will help to create awareness, acceptance and inclusion of mental illness as any other ailment. Moreover, it will bring mental health disorders at par with physical illnesses, which will normalize diagnoses, reduce associated myths and stigma related mental health disorders. It will be in lines with global practice, as globally, companies cover mental illness after initial waiting period of two-three years.