Alex Perry, CEO of Bupa Insurance UK, offers three examples of how mental health cover has broadened
World Mental Health Day has become a key date in our calendars, with organisations and individuals doing their bit to raise awareness for mental health conditions, and the people affected by them, on 10 October each year.
This year Bupa is encouraging the industry to acknowledge World Mental Health Day and the work that still needs to be done to bring mental health provision in line with that of physical health.
So how can we ensure that we're truly meeting the needs of our customers? In the age of social media and always-on working culture, employers face an increasingly challenging set of challenges in this area.
There's no health without mental health. That's why health insurers need to lead the way in making sure we're all responding to the growing need for mental health support in three key ways:
1. Improving access to help
Mental health issues can affect anyone, and early diagnosis and treatment improves outcomes. As such, the industry needs to ensure its customers are receiving support as soon as they need it.
Forty percent of GP appointments are now thought to be for mental health conditions and, with this increasing demand on services, it can be challenging for those with a mental health condition to get access to the help they need. By cutting out the need for GP referrals, health insurers can ensure that their customers get faster access to treatment and support, whilst alleviating pressure on the NHS.
Our Mental Health Direct Access service does just this; it allows customers to speak to a specialist without needing a GP referral. And ensuring mental health patients have access to a wide range of information and support can also improve outcomes: online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy support lines can be a good first line of care for many people and this is something we also offer.
2. Providing more comprehensive cover
Mental health conditions can manifest themselves in complex and overlapping ways. Diagnosis is often difficult, so those affected need cover that is straightforward, comprehensive and available whenever they need it - without exclusions or time restrictions.
This is why we recently took the decision to offer our customers support for anything to do with the mind, with dementia being the only exception. We cover treatment for all addictions, including drugs, alcohol and non substance-related addictions such as gambling.
Prevention is better than cure, and providing support for conditions as early as possible can prevent longer-term, more severe issues developing further down the line, so early action serves to benefit us all. And so Bupa removed restrictions on ongoing monitoring of mental health conditions should our member need it, to help prevent future flare-ups.
We now know that mental health is a spectrum, and as such the insurance cover we offer should reflect this. As the industry continues to develop and improve its understanding of mental health, the need for a truly comprehensive product offering becomes more apparent than ever before.
3. Supporting everyone
As many of us know from our own experiences, mental health conditions can have an effect on those closest to sufferers: if a family member is struggling with their mental health, it can have an impact on the whole family.
And now that one in eight five to 19 year-olds are thought to be experiencing mental health issues, the need to support the children of our customers becomes greater than ever. With academic and social pressures mounting, we're seeing an increase of young people struggling with issues such as anxiety and stress. That's why increasingly mental health cover and support should be oriented towards the children of our customers.
Support for mental health is becoming one of the most significant areas of our business. While the industry, and the healthcare sector more broadly, continues to look at how best to support people, World Mental Health Day acts as a welcome reminder to us all that we must also look to the future, and ensure our services meet the needs of the customers we serve.
Bupa's mental health cover supports mental health conditions related to learning or behavioural disorders and can cover children from birth. Bupa is also covers all addictions, including drug, alcohol, and non-substance-related addictions, as well as having removed time limits, meaning that recurring and long term mental health conditions are covered. The offering marks a huge step forward in removing restrictions that are standard elsewhere and ensuring that more people than ever before can access the help they need for themselves and their families, when they need it.
Alex Perry is CEO of Bupa Insurance UK
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