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Mental Health Treatment Should be Mainstream

The life insurance sector must continue to develop its focus on mental health issues to the extent it is treated similarly to other insurable conditions, according to ANZ Wealth Head of Mental Health and Wellness, Life Insurance, Maria Falas.

ANZ Wealth Head of Mental Health and Wellness, Life Insurance, Maria Falas

Falas said the incidence of mental health issues was transforming the life insurance sector and, at present, 23 per cent of income protection claims involved a mental health condition.

As a result of this shift, Falas said life insurers had changed the services they provided and were taking a more active role in offering in preventative programs to their customers and this trend would continue over the next two years.

“Our sector must evolve so it can meet the changing expectations of customers and their needs. There is now an enhanced focus on wellness across the developed world, which is a valuable opportunity for insurers to create deeper and more lasting relationships with customers,” Falas said.

“By focusing on mental and physical wellness, insurers can help provide a pathway to better health for consumers and a more meaningful role in their customers wellbeing,” she added.

Falas said OnePath was building out its expertise in mental health and wellness through product innovation, adviser support, trustee services and improved customer experience, and had launched a Health Coaching program, an early engagement process for mental health claims and a coaching program for claimants with depression or anxiety.

OnePath was also working with the University of Technology, Sydney on predictive analytics to understand the mental health risks people face and the impacts of those risks on product design and life insurance underwriting.

According to Falas, the analytics will provide OnePath with better bio-social data around the causes of mental health conditions and will guide it decisions in underwriting, claims, product design and pricing.

“We are continuing our work to better support our customers across the life of a policy to include mental health and wellness, with a focus on health continuum and prevention,” she said.

“We are still at the early stages of this work but have already made significant moves and how far we go, time will tell. I hope we get to the point that we approach and process mental health at underwriting and claims like we do with the current big four conditions,’ Falas said.