At a time when there is renewed focus on mental health after actor Sushant Singh Rajput's suicide, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (Irda) to explain why insurance companies were not including cost of treatment for mental illness in medical insurance covers.
A bench of Justices R F Nariman, Naveen Sinha and B R Gavai sent notices to the Centre and the Irda on a PIL filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal alleging that insurance firms were violating Section 21(4) of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017, which mandated every insurer to make provision for treatment of mental illness on the same basis as available for treatment of physical illnesses.
Bansal said through various RTI applications, he had come to know that though the Irda had issued a directive in 2018, following enactment of the Mental Healthcare Act, to all insurance firms to make provision for reimbursement of cost of treatment of mental illness, the regulatory body had not made any effort to supervise implementation of its directive in letter and spirit.
The petitioner told the court that the Irda had responded to an RTI query and said not a single insurance company had been penalised for violation of Section 21(4) of the 2017 law. Bansal said absence of insurance cover for treatment of mental illness led to thousands of mentally ill patients not getting discharged from hospitals. Apprehensive about not being able to meet the cost of treatment for mental illness, they preferred to stay in hospitals, he added The PIL sought a direction from the court to the Irda to implement the 2017 Act’s mandate in letter and spirit.
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