AIA sets benchmark with first insurance policy for mental illnesses

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Photo: YT screengrab

SPARKLING news for those with mental illnesses: Insurer AIA has launched Singapore’s first insurance policy offering coverage for mental setbacks.

Named AIA Beyond Critical Care, the plan covers these five conditions: Major Depressive Disorders (MDD); Schizophrenia; Bipolar Disorder; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD; Tourette Syndrome.

The study was spearheaded by the Institute of Mental Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Nanyang Technological University.

For AIA Singapore, it marks another milestone as part of its centennial celebrations by unveiling Singapore’s first-ever insurance policy which provides up to 200 per cent coverage for 43 Major Stage CI and five rediagnosed or recurred CI.

The policy also provides 100 per cent premium refund at the end of the policy term for policyholders who remain in pink of health, says Ms Ho Lee Yen, chief customer and marketing officer at AIA Singapore.

HIGHEST DEPRESSION RATE

Recent regional studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) show Singapore had one of the highest rates of depression in Asia. But rather sadly, about three in four Singaporeans with a mental disorder do not seek any help.

Under the plan, customers may be reimbursed for the cost of their health screening (up to S$200). They will also get access to a health and wellness programme with incentives and rewards.

If the customer is diagnosed with any of the five mental illnesses, AIA will pay what it calls a “Mental Well-being Benefit Insured Amount”, which is 20 per cent of the basic plan’s amount with up to S$50,000 for each claim. The total per life limit for all claims is S$150,000.

Besides these, a personal medical case management service will provide independent and global medical advice from diagnosis to recovery. A phone-line service will also link customers to healthcare practitioners who can provide advice, recommendations and referrals to health, home and care services.

On the new move to provide coverage for mental illness, Ms Ho said that it was based on customer insight and health trends. She says: “We find a balance between providing the best possible benefits for our customers and ensuring that it is sustainable for the business.

“There are many more unreported cases of mental health conditions due to the stigma around mental illnesses, which is why we want to tackle this and help people get the support they need.

MENTAL DISORDER

Seriously, the statistics say it all: One in seven Singaporeans experienced a mental disorder in their lifetime, with MDD and OCD among the top mental conditions for which people seek help, a recent Singapore Mental Health Study showed.

This may raise some eyebrows, but young adults are most at risk of suffering from mental disorders. Those aged between 18 and 34 are more likely to have experienced bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, alcohol abuse, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Other socio-demographic factors such as age, gender, marital status, education and income status are also associated with the prevalence of mental disorders. For example, alcohol abuse is more prevalent among the lower-educated, compared with those who have received tertiary education.

Dr Mythily Subramaniam, the co-principal investigator of the study, noted that this is congruent with universal findings, because those with lower education may have “poor coping mechanisms” and may not understand the dangers of alcohol addiction.

Those involved in the study say in that period of one’s life (between 18 to 34) there are many changes going on. For example, those who have just left school have to think about finding a job, those who go into tertiary education have to think about getting a diploma or degree.

SOCIAL MEDIA SITES

A study published in the American Journal Of Preventive Medicine found that the more time young people spent on social media sites such as Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Reddit, the more socially isolated they perceived themselves to be.

And tertiary students could be a likely target population for certain kinds of intervention. These interventions could include building a more supportive culture in tertiary institutions and workplaces, he added. For example, peers could look out for friends who are grappling with extraordinary pressures and encourage them to seek help from counsellors.

For the record, AIA Group Limited and its subsidiaries comprise the largest independent publicly listed pan-Asian life insurance group. It has a presence in 18 markets in Asia-Pacific – wholly-owned branches and subsidiaries in, among selected places, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Korea, the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Vietnam.