Cos add mental care to health covers globally


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Pandemic-Induced Move Sees Employers Expand Coverage As Basic Employee Benefit

MUMBAI: Extending healthcare coverage to include mental health has become a significant part of employee benefit programmes globally since the pandemic. Employers are going for broader health coverage even as insurers are raising health insurance costs. This is because health is now seen as a basic benefit even in countries where employee health cover is not mandated.

Glenn Thomas, CEO, Health & Benefits and Global Practice Head, Howden Broking (Insurance) UK said the post-Covid demand for medical insurance has increased worldwide, and that will stay for some time. “In markets where health insurance is discretionary and complementary, we have seen big increases in demand because of pressures on the state system,” he said. Howden is seeing high growth in the purchase of employee benefits cover and is expecting this segment to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 25-30% for the next three years.

According to Thomas, employers do not withdraw benefits once introduced because employees see value in them. At the same time, the cost of cover keeps rising. “Medical inflation is higher than general inflation. Also, while technology tends to make businesses more efficient, in the health sector it is used to find ways for people to live longer or new treatments that are more expensive.

Mental health

At the employers’ end, there’s a much greater emphasis on supporting mental health and well-being for employees. The reason for this is that employers have seen the consequence of ill health in the workplace. “They’ve seen the pressures that some of their employees have been under and need that help to get back,” he said.

“In many countries, we are seeing a war for talent and the emphasis is on making sure you support employees and provide some flexibility for them to work, making sure that you support their mental and physical health as well,” he said.

According to Thomas, post-Covid, India was the worst affected in the life insurance markets. He said no other market saw mortality rates and reinsurance costs going up like India.

“Long Covid is starting to impact claims, and there is some evidence to show that there has been an increase in other conditions such as stroke and heart attack. So, you have got this interesting period where premiums are hardening but, at the same time, employers and employees are recognising the need to protect their health,” he said.