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Little medical cover for mental health

Many medical insurance policies offer little cover for mental health, a new report has found.

Monday, July 10th 2017, 6:00AM

Gabrielle Jenkin and Samantha Ernst, of Otago University, looked at 36 policies from five insurers in New Zealand.

They found 55 per cent provided some cover for psychiatric consultations, 11 per cent for clinical psychologist consultations and 36 per cent for psychiatric consultations.

"We recognise that insurance underwriting is complex and that companies are balancing risk of claims against income. However, it is notable that the available cover is negligible compared to that available for many other common health problems," they said.

Insurers said the absence of cover was partly because of the nature of mental health conditions – there is not a clear treatment path in most cases, in the same way there is for a cancer diagnosis.Partners Life managing director Naomi Ballantyne said most mental health patients had their conditions managed rather than cured.

Partners was not in the business of “dollar swapping”, she said. If people wanted chronic conditions covered by medical policies, premiums would have to rise.

Adviser Tim Fairbrother questioned whether insurance cover was the right path.

“Some maybe critical of the extent of mental illness cover in medical insurance, but what are the options for treatment? Most medical insurance has limited benefits for surgical procedures as the options aren’t there, but there is extensive cover in the specialist and test option for counselling ...  This has become an epidemic within our youth and rural communities, but is this a medical treatment issue or a society prevention issue?’”

Tags: health insurance Naomi Ballantyne Partners Life

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