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Insurers welcome mental health boost

Insurers hope an increase in mental health funding announced in the Budget will mean they deal with fewer people in crises.

Thursday, June 6th 2019, 6:00AM

Almost $2 billion was allocated in the Budget for mental health, including a new frontline health service.

James Thomson, claims relations manager at Asteron Life, said it was welcome.

“We see a large number of customers lodging mental health-related claims with us who are not getting access to the specialist treatment they need, or whose conditions are not being diagnosed and supported quickly enough, so it’s really positive to see more support services for mental health in the most recent Budget," he said.

“Asteron Life tries to plug the gap where we can by funding rehabilitation and treatment that is unavailable through the public system or too expensive for customers to access themselves, but these changes mean the support customers get through the public system should increase which is a good thing for them.

“The Government focus on mental health will also hopefully help customers to identify and seek help for mental health issues earlier and while it might not reduce the number of claims to us, it should promote better long term health and recovery for people who are suffering from these issues.”

AIA and Sovereign chief executive Nick Stanhope said he hoped it would mean insurers picking up less “bottom of the cliff” work with people suffering mental health problems.

He said there was evidence that the sooner someone sought help for a problem, the better the outcome they could achieve.

But insurers would usually only discover a problem when it had already become serious enough to lead to a claim. 

“We are alarmed at the number of mental health claims, there’s an increasing number coming through. It’s something we’re trying to understand why.”

He said it could in part be due to an increasing awareness of the issue and people being more prepared to speak up and get help.

Mental health claims were complex, he said. "It's more difficult than a broken leg."

Stanhope said the insurer’s Vitality programme was designed to help people tackle health problems before they got to crisis point – an elevated heart rate for a sustained period or a change in sleep patterns could signal a change that required attention.

Stanhope said, if improvements were made to the treatment and support services available for mental health over a sustained period of time there should be an impact on the number of claims.

Government moves to try to ensure that people had basic needs met, such as decent housing, should also help mental health, he said.

Tags: AIA Asteron health insurance

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