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UAE doctors call on insurance companies to provide coverage for mental health issues

Non-coverage forces patients to see other specialists leading to higher costs for insurance companies.



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Nandini Sircar

Published: Sat 19 Feb 2022, 10:34 AM

Health experts in the UAE are calling for insurance companies to provide insurance coverage for mental health issues.

This comes as the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) recently highlighted features of an under-development app known as ‘Mindspire’ at the UAE Innovates event at the Dubai Expo 2020.

The app aims to help individuals suffering from depression or those who would like a preliminary screening of their state, and aids in alleviating their symptoms. The app focuses on anonymity and has minimal user intervention.

Dr Shaju George, psychiatrist at Medeor Hospital Dubai, opines, “Doctors and mental health professionals have a big role in persuading insurance companies to provide insurance coverage to people who have mental health issues, irrespective of the socio-economic strata they are coming from.

"Several efforts were made in the past by doctors to educate insurance companies that they are losing a whole lot of money by not providing coverage for mental health issues. Non-coverage for such illnesses forces these people to see other specialists where insurance companies bleed a lot on unnecessary consultations, investigations, and medicine.”

Unlike other medical specialities a lot of time is spent between the patient and the doctor or the therapists. Treatment plan also involves multiple sessions leading to higher costs.

Patients whose insurance companies do not cover these costs prefer to remain untreated as the expense adds to their financial burden, experts say.

Meanwhile, medics also highlight paying heed to early warning signals and redressing it by approaching a professional at the right time is key to handling such situations.

They explain “difficulty in regulating and dealing with difficult emotions, thoughts, and traumas when they occur” could be nascent signs for a patient to take better care of themselves.

Aster Jubilee Medical complex, Bur Dubai, Specialist Psychiatrist, Dr Arun Kumar K. says, “The importance of mental health though widely hyped is often unattended to. A recent Lancet-World Psychiatric Association (WPA) commission on Depression publication released a few days back highlights the reality. There is an estimated one billion people suffering with mental health issues worldwide of which 81 per cent are in middle and low-income countries. Five per cent of the world population suffers from depression, making it a leading cause for disability and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.

“Mental health conditions have been stigmatized for ages. Though, there has been significant scientific advances regarding the causes of depression and the emergence of effective treatment methods, the knowledge is yet to spread among the population. A vast majority still believe that the sufferers bring it upon themselves because they have a weak mind or they keep thinking negative or any other theory which has no evidence whatsoever,” Kumar adds.

Doctors underline the cause for mental health issues like depression is multi-factorial. The presence or absence of a stressor is only one factor. The major factors are biological, psychological, and social. So, the presentation or the warning signs are quite varying depending on the person’s age and background.

Life Coach and Energy Healer in Dubai, Girish Hemnani says, “One should seek help when emotion regulation has started inclining towards strategies such as avoidance, repression, isolation, alcohol, drugs, worry, self-criticism, overthinking, overeating, self-harm, compulsive behaviour, and distractions.”

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They aver despite, the efforts made by individuals and organisations regarding the need to address the underlying unaddressed mental health, there is still a lot of resistance in people to seek help.

“We cannot overlook the reasons that resist seeking outside help. Living in denial is considered as okay, not enough encouragement to make a change, non-willingness to take responsibility and accountability, lack of courage to face the truth, and scared that it will be overwhelming. This leads to not prioritizing in acknowledging and addressing the root cause of mental health. Another big challenge is that a lot of holistic and complementary therapy that actually work is not covered by insurance,” adds Hemnani.

Psychologist at LifeWorks -- Holistic Counselling Canter, Ritasha Varsani, said, “The active participation of doctors with insurance companies to discuss in regard to reduce the insurance premium will prove to be beneficial to the society at large. People are aware that they need help but due to the type of treatment, costs of medications and the number of therapy sessions, they take a step back or leave the treatment incomplete due to lack of affordability.”

nandini@khaleejtimes.com


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