Being off work can be a major cause of mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. Prolonged absence from work, for example due to a physical injury or illness, significantly reduces the likelihood of a person returning to work, whereas early intervention increases the probability of a person successfully returning to their livelihood and restoring mental wellbeing.
The issue is of deep concern to AIA Australia, with CEO Damien Mu a vocal advocate for change. Mu wants Government and business leaders to better understand the devastating impact of mental ill health, remove the stigma associated with it, and to develop strategies that help ameliorate its harmful effects on individuals, families, businesses and the wider community.
Mental health is a complex issue that is far more widespread than once believed; it’s estimated that 45% of Australians between the ages of 16-85 will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime, and this obviously has repercussions on every aspect of their life. AIA has also seen a growing trend of mental ill health being a more prominent issue for younger people aged 20 to 39 years old.
From AIA’s perspective, a crucial step needs to be taken by amending legislation that restricts life insurers from providing rehabilitation services, offering early intervention support and medical treatment for mental health-related illnesses. AIA and the wider industry is calling for a change to the legislation to remove these barriers.
Under the current system life insurers are unable to provide additional support for any treatments offered by Medicare or where it is a hospital or general treatment, even if Medicare and private health benefits are exhausted.
It’s not just an issue of allowing life insurers to pay: AIA Australia wants to do more to support customers, but can only do so if legislation is overhauled. The benefits of removing these restrictions would be significant. Customers would receive better support when they need it most, earlier in the process, which will not only speed up the recovery process but improve an individual’s overall mental wellbeing.
There is a real opportunity to make a difference and deliver benefits to customers, government and insurers through lower health costs and fewer claims.
AIA is calling for the Government and business to make mental health a priority by amending the relevant sections of the Life Insurance Act, The Health Insurance Act and the Superannuation Industry Supervision regulations. This should not pose an insurmountable hurdle – especially when the benefits are so tangible.
Today, we are far more aware of mental health issues; the stigma once attached is rightly diminishing as it’s prevalence across society is more widely acknowledged. There is community groundswell to tackle the issue, and government and business need to be at the forefront in doing so.
More about AIA Australia’s RESTORE™ wellness and work readiness program can be found here.