THE COST OF
Marie du Plessis* has been treated for depression for roughly three years and it costs her more than R5 000 a month to manage the condition. She has a hospital plan, which costs R1 700 a month, but this does not cover any kind of psychological therapy. It only covers up to 20 sessions with a psychiatrist, who she sees four times a year to get a diagnosis and prescriptions.
“Over and above this, it costs me roughly R3 000 a month for psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist, and R580 for medication,” she says.
“Medical aids only cover up to 20 sessions with a psychiatrist – not a clinical psychologist – for major depressive disorders because this is considered ‘in hospital’. The medication is on the list of exempt chronic medications for cover from insurance. There was also an incident where I needed to get 28 stitches from a self-harm injury, but because I was not admitted to hospital overnight, the medical expenses were for my own account. I end up spending roughly R5 500 on medical expenses a month.”
One in four adults in South Africa has been diagnosed with or has experienced periods of mental illness. Many live and work with conditions such as depression, chronic anxiety, adult attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder.
The SA Depression and Anxiety Group estimates that depression alone is costing South Africa more than R218 billion in lost productivity. About R28 billion of this is attributable to unscheduled absences from work, while R190 billion can be attributed to people going to work while they are unwell.
Depression, while treatable, is not covered by some medical scheme policies and, depending on whether you suffered from it in the past, it may not even be covered under a life or disability policy.
DISCRIMINATION, EXCLUSIONS AND PAYING MORE