New Law Mandates Insurance Cover for Mental Illness

Complementary health insurance covers expensive surgeries, but up until now there has been no insurance plan to cover even simple treatments in mental disorders
New Law Mandates Insurance Cover for Mental IllnessNew Law Mandates Insurance Cover for Mental Illness

The Majlis (parliament) recently passed a bill to bring healthcare services for different types of psychological disorders under basic and complementary insurance from the next fiscal year which begins in March 2017.

The bill calls for insurance coverage for psychological healthcare, as well as making premarital genetic testing mandatory for all couples, according to Dr. Abbas Ali Allahyari, director of the Psychology and Counseling Organization of Iran (PCOI).

“The provisions of the bill will be implemented under the sixth economic, social and cultural development plan (2016-2021) and will come into effect next year,” he said at meeting of university chancellors, academia in psychology, counselors, and members of PCOI specialized commissions on Thursday, Islamic Azad University News Agency ‘ANA’ reported.

The proposal had been under scrutiny at the Majlis Social Commission for several months before being debated in an open session last week. The details of the bill were not fully known.

Public health officials and experts alike had long censured the lack of insurance coverage for lengthy and costly treatments or hospitalization needed for severe mental conditions.

Inadequate access to mental healthcare is a major problem and the main reason is lack of appropriate insurance coverage. This was highlighted by Health Minister Seyed Hassan Ghazizadeh Hashemi, on the sidelines of the 33rd Annual Congress of Iranian Psychiatric Association held in October.

Complementary health insurance covers expensive surgeries, but up until now there has been no insurance plan to cover even simple treatments in mental disorders.

According to Mahdi Tehrandoust, head of Rouzbeh Specialized Psychiatry Hospital, insurance organizations do not pay for hospitalization longer than two months (56 days) in psychiatry hospitals, while a patient with a moderate to severe mental disorder like schizophrenia needs to be hospitalized for at least two or three times a year (depending on how often the need arises).  Not all patients can afford to pay out of their pockets.

The bill aims to address such shortcomings.

  Major Issue

Anoushiravan Mohseni Bandpei, head of the State Welfare Organization, said on Thursday that psychological disorders constitute an urgent health problem in today’s world.

“About 25% of the Iranian population of 80 million are grappling with some form of psychiatric condition,” he said at the First International Congress of Social Health Studies, held December 21-23 in Shiraz, capital of Fars Province.

About 200,000 people in the country are living with some form of mental disorder. A national survey on prevalence of mental illnesses conducted in 2011 indicated that 23.6% of Iranians aged between 15 and 64 years suffered from various types of mental disorders, among whom 12.7% had depression.

According to the latest national survey on mental health, stress, anxiety disorders, and depression make up the largest part of mental disorders in Iran. Some 20% of such patients do not receive the required medical services, and a large number do not even seek help.

Noting that there are four aspects to health including physical, mental, social, and spiritual, he said social inclusion and acceptance, as well as social activity are the cornerstone of wellbeing.

A growing body of research indicates that there is a 70% correlation between poverty and psychological turmoil. “Economic and social empowerment must be prioritized if we wish to promote mental health in the country,” Bandpei stressed.

Studies show about 50% of mental conditions is diagnosed before the age of 14, and about 75% before the age of 24. Women have 1.3% higher chances of developing a mental condition than men, with widows in the lead.

“There are 2.6 million female breadwinners, among whom 1.8 million have lost their husbands, and this stratum needs social support to prevent potential psychological disorders.”

Depression is also prevalent in children and teenagers in the 10-15 age groups.

Based on studies at the SWO, the under 15 population will equate the over 60 population by 2050, which calls for strategic and efficient planning in the healthcare sector.

In May, the health minister called on pertinent organizations to do a thorough assessment of the state of mental health in the country and the motives contributing to risky social behavior and suicidal tendencies as “the rate of depression (12%) is high in the country and demands immediate social and medical attention.”


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