SINGAPORE - It appears that there is minimal or no insurance cover available to sufferers of mental illnesses.
Such persons who require medical insurance are often rejected or, at best, offered terms that specifically exclude any form of mental illness.
Insurers who do provide cover do so only after a long waiting period and charge premiums that many find prohibitively high.
The hospitalisation cover is also very low, even with the enhanced "shield" policies, which provide hospitalisation cover of as low as between $3,000 and $5,000 per year, after the basic annual deductions, following which claims are also subject to a co-sharing of 10 per cent.
Research in America has shown that the provision of insurance parity for mental illnesses results in very marginal extra cost, which can be substantially offset against the availability of persons to continue to perform their duties because of early intervention and effective treatment of mental illnesses.
There are many issues Singapore needs to explore, including:
•The need for insurance parity between normal illness and mental illness;
•The effects of absenteeism from work, as the inability to pay for treatment for mental illnesses often results in prolonged treatment time; and
•The loss of productivity and general economic loss to the nation. I urge the Ministry of Health, Central Provident Fund Board, Life Insurance Association of Singapore and General Insurance Association of Singapore, as well as other relevant parties, to look into this matter.
The provision of insurance cover for persons suffering from mental illnesses cannot be brushed aside.
Uttam Pritamdas Kripalani
Action Group for Mental Illness
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.