health insurance shake-up

Private health makeover one step forward – and back – for mental health

The Australian Government has announced a raft of changes designed to make mental health treatments more accessible for Australians. Although the changes are targeted at those under 30, it’s further proof that the issue of mental health is being taken more seriously.

Under the proposed changes, under-30s will not only be given discounts on their insurance but will also be offered an immediate upgrade of their policy to fully cover mental health, with no waiting periods if they enter hospital for treatment.

The ABC reports that patients with low-cost policies currently attract co-payments of up to $1000 a day for mental health stays. Under the new system, there will be also no limits to treatment.

With mental health is among the top three causes for hospitalisation for young men and women, it’s hopeful the private health overhaul will catch others who would normally put off treatment because of worries about costs.

At the same time as the government announced the new measures, they also announced that rebates for “unproven” natural therapies and exercises including tai chi, yoga, and pilates would be dropped. Ironically these therapies are used by thousands of Aussies to help them feel balanced and ‘mentally fit’.

With the Australian private health system drawing a lot of criticism lately due to complicated policies, endless price rises and a general lack of cover, it’s an interesting move from the government. One step forward, one back.

…anyone who’s tried to take out life insurance will know that “have you had or been treated for a mental illness?” continues to be one of the first questions asked.

A few years ago the government introduced the Better Access to Mental Health Care initiative, whereby Australians would get Medicare rebates for mental health treatment with a referral and Mental Health Treatment Plan from their doctor. This was another positive step in the right direction. At the same time, anyone who’s tried to take out life insurance will know that “have you had or been treated for a mental illness?” continues to be one of the first questions asked.

With Australia’s depression and suicide rates at outrageously high levels, we should continue to do everything possible to ensure people get the support and care they need. With the discounted rates on health insurance being phased out when policyholders turn 40, often the age when mental health issues arise for men (and women) as the balance of work, family and social isolation take hold, it’s vital we have continued support in this area. People don’t need to be judged and they don’t need it held against them later on.




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