The number of people struggling with mental health conditions is increasing every year, which has increased the cost of covering those conditions by 224% since 2009.
According to the latest figures released by Discovery Health, this medical scheme paid out a total of R2.6 billion in 2018 for psychiatric treatments.
During 2018, some 364,746 Discovery members were also diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Even more worrying is that the medical scheme figures indicate that people are starting to suffer from diseases such as depression or bipolar disorder. So they are already being diagnosed at a younger age. “In 2009, the general age for diagnosis was about 40. Nowadays, people, especially women, are diagnosed between 16 and 30 years old,” says Dr. Noluthando Nematswerani, the head of Discovery’s Clinical Excellence Center.
The number of men treated for this type of disease has increased by 49% over the past ten years to 11.1% of Discovery members. The number of women increased by 37% to 17.9%. The number of children treated increased by 18% to 8.2%.
Depression is estimated to be the biggest contributing factor to the global disease burden in 2030.
However, Nematswerani explains that Discovery’s payments to mental health conditions have also multiplied as the cost of treating them, as well as the number of members belonging to the scheme, have increased.
“Within the scheme, depression was the disease with the most payouts, for both men and women, in 2018. Bipolar disorder resulted in the second largest payout this year,” says Nematswerani.
The most expensive claim during 2018 was R235 272. It covered the hospitalization and rehabilitation costs of a 47-year-old man treated for bipolar disorder and alcohol and drug abuse.
Discovery further indicated that 61% of the R2.6 billion claims were spent on out-of-hospital treatments. The majority were for medication and consultations with clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and occupational therapists.
Mental health claims contributed to 4.5% of all Discovery claims handled in 2018. “Our spending on this has increased by 15% since 2009. However, patients admitted to hospital have increased faster, namely by 31% since 2009, ”adds Nematswerani.
Free State, the major province of depression
According to a second report from Discovery, most of its members in the Free State, around 7.3%, are diagnosed with a mental health condition.
Discovery Health’s mental health claims report further shows that this province also has the most psychologists and psychiatrists per patient in the Discovery Health scheme. “It is possible why more diagnoses were made in the province,” according to the report.
The Eastern Cape had the most recent diagnoses, with 6.6%. In Gauteng, 6.1% of diagnoses were made nationwide.