Thanks to the rap of the judiciary, mental patients can now hope to get their cost of treatment reimbursed.
As a nation India is remarkably indifferent to mental patients and their needs. On Monday Delhi High Court pulled up National Insurance Company (NIC) and directed it to reimburse the cost of treatment of schizophrenia it refused to pay to a woman who lodged the complaint. The angry court even directed the company to pay the litigation expenses to the litigant. The justice also refused to stop at a single instance and directed the Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India to supervise whether insurance companies are dodging paying up treatment expenditure of mental patients. The court said the insurance regulator “cannot turn a blind eye” if the companies continue to avoid payment.
WHO estimates about 7.5% Indians suffer from mental disorders and they are handicapped by inadequate infrastructure to handle this vast number. To complicate matters for the patients, insurance companies drag their feet in picking up the cost of treatment. The Mental Healthcare Act 2017 is an important piece of legislation that strives to ensure that those with mental illness have a right to treatment and a life with dignity without any discrimination.
In a sense this very important right was being denied when insurance companies avoid picking up bills related to the treatment of mental patients. The courts have recognised this right and done their bit to establish it. It is now the duty of the insurance regulator to ensure that the spirit of the judicial intervention is ensured in practice.
The indicator of any civilised nation lies in the way it treats its vulnerable population and justice Pratibha M Singh deserves praise for pointing it out without ambiguity. It must be recognised that the aggrieved party has every right to move Supreme Court against the high court order. But whether it would be in the right spirit can be debated.