Private health insurers data released this week makes a clear case for the value of mandatory mental health cover in hospital policies, says Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) Chief Executive Officer Michael Roff.
“Private health insurers often argue that mental health cover is too big a burden, and put unfair restrictions into policies that result in many families missing out on cover if their child is diagnosed with a mental health condition.” Mr Roff said.
“Private Healthcare Australia's High Claims data shows the top 30 claims for under 30-year-olds often exceed $10,000 and many of those admissions were for mental health.
“These figures back up APHA’s continued lobbying for high quality mental health care to be part of all insurance packages.”
In releasing the annual High Claims data, Private Healthcare Australia Chief Executive Officer Dr Rachel David endorsed the role of private hospitals in managing mental health conditions.
“Providing quality care with a choice of doctor and a choice of hospital for long stays and in the treatment of such severe and debilitating conditions is a very worthwhile return on health fund premiums,” Dr David said.
“In many cases, serious mental health conditions, including eating disorders, accounted for these admissions. It is notoriously difficult for individuals to accurately assess their risk of developing these conditions.”
Mr Roff said that is precisely the rationale for including mandatory mental health cover in all insurance policies.
“If people don't know they are likely to need this sort of cover, they are unlikely to take it out,” he said.
“Care pathways for people with mood and affective disorders such as severe depression and anxiety are often blocked in public hospitals.
“Mental health issues are experienced by 45 per cent of adults in their lifetime, according to the Mental Health Commission. Every year that's 3.6 million adults managing a mental health disorder.”
Mr Roff said private hospitals have expertise in caring for Australians with a range of mental health conditions from depression and anxiety through to complex conditions. He said private hospitals often offer the best access to care for Australians with these illnesses.
“More than 36,000 Australians are treated in private hospital facilities for mental health conditions annually,” he said.
“Care pathways for people with severe depression and anxiety are often blocked in public hospitals due to pressure on the system, which is where private hospitals step in.
“Private hospitals offer high quality care for people suffering from depression, anxiety and eating disorders when they might otherwise suffer in silence. Almost 50 per cent of Australians have private health cover which gives them access to private hospitals, alleviating pressure on the public system.
“It is important that Australians are provided policies that are easy to understand, meet their needs and are fit for purpose. APHA will continue to lobby the end of ‘junk’ policies that do not provide adequate care or only provide for care in public hospitals – care they can access for free anyway.
“There is still a great deal of work to be done in this area, but it is heartening to see private health insurers promoting the high quality care provided in private hospitals.”