Why no cover for mental illness? Supreme Court asks Centre, regulator

Actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death brings issue back in focus

By DTE Staff
Published: Tuesday 16 June 2020
The Supreme Court sought a response from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and IRDA Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Supreme Court issued a notice to the Union government and the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA) on June 16, 2020 over a plea to provide health insurance for mental illness.

A bench comprising Justice Rohinton F Nariman, Navin Sinha and BR Gavai sought a response from the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and IRDA.

There was a clear statutory provision in the Mental Healthcare Act (MHC) over providing mental health insurance, said the plea by advocate Gaurav Kr Bansal.

The IRDA had issued directives over insurance policy for mental illness as well. The regulatory authority, however, did not follow up on its compliance, according to the plea.

The IRDA had issued a circular in 2018 asking all insurance companies to comply with the provision of the MHC with immediate effect. Section 21 (4) of the act made this mandatory. The law said every insurer must make provisions for medical insurance for treatment of mental illness at par with physical illness.

Bansal argued that the mentally ill face hardship because IRDA did not regulate insurance companies.

A Right To Information (RTI) application was also filed by Bansal in January 2019 to check the status of IRDA’s 2018 circular on mental illness.

The IRDA was reluctant in taking immediate action, despite there being specific provisions in the law, according to Bansal.

His plea sought direction from the court for IRDA over the implementation of the MHC Act in letter and spirit.

The issue of mental illness — widely prevalent in India — emerged again after the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput was widely reported in the media. One in five Indians face depression in their lifetime, according to the World Health Organization.

Society's approach towards those affected by it makes it worse for the patients and their families, as does neglect from policy makers and insurance companies.

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