Mental Health Matters: Calling for Better Insurance Coverage

DigitalCFO Newsroom | 12 April 2022

Alea report highlights protection gap for mental health in Hong Kong, with in-depth research of 20 insurers.

Mental health is one of the most neglected areas of health in Hong Kong and the ongoing pandemic has further worsened the status. High stress levels and increasing prevalence of mental health issues are prompting consumers to take action, and seek assistance and better protection.

As a leading health & life insurance broker – with a strong focus on mental wellbeing, Alea publishes the first-ever research on mental health protection in Hong Kong: from an in-depth analysis of mental health insurance benefits from 20 well-known insurance providers, to a roundup of recent technology-driven mental health initiatives from insurers.

Mental health toll – a wake-up call for insurers

The increased demand for mental health support has fueled the insurance industry to find innovative ways to help customers get the care they need. It presents an opportunity for insurers to be more proactive about mental health solutions and upgrade their coverage options.

International vs. Local health insurance: pros and cons

International insurance benefits for behavioural health services tend to be more comprehensive, but the drawback is the significantly higher premium. One should keep in mind that Hong Kong remains the second most expensive jurisdiction in the world for private healthcare, with medical insurance premiums to match. On the other hand, local plans fall behind international ones in terms of mental health coverage for outpatient treatment, with stricter limits applied. Meanwhile, VHIS products provide full cover for inpatient psychiatric treatments only, excluding all outpatient mental health cover.

Bridging the protection gap

Mental health benefits in private health insurance plans are typically more capped than benefits for physical health care services, driving reform efforts to achieve parity in coverage. In order to meet Hong Kong’s surging needs for mental health treatments, insurers are extending coverage beyond psychiatry to include more common conditions, with additional coverage for psychological consultations and counselling.

New initiatives by insurance providers 
Insurers have launched initiatives to connect consumers to mental health resources amid the pandemic, developing a range of digital tools tending to individual wellbeing. These resources add value to insurance offerings and help promote better overall health among policyholders.

Remaining barriers to care

Financial barriers are one impediment for the public to receive mental health care. People often cite the cost of care and the lack of health insurance coverage as reasons for not seeking mental healthcare. In addition, due to continuing social stigma around mental wellbeing, many people prefer to avoid the sensitivity of making a claim. Insurance providers can do more to support them in this goal.

At a time when mental health is more important than ever, we are proud to shed light on what insurers are doing to address rising mental health risks. More needs to be done especially in regards to covering mental health pre-existing conditions,” says Amelie Dionne-Charest, Co-founder of Alea.

What’s next?

Emphasis on mental health coverage is increasing among insurers who are working to make treatment for mental illness easier and more accessible. They can step up by redesigning plans to encompass a wider range of mental health services from prevention, detection and treatment to management and recovery.

Download the full report https://bit.ly/3DQg4wZ