Many Emiratis unaware of Thiqa’s mental health care coverage

Despite Thiqa covering 100 per cent of the cost of mental health treatment, many Emiratis are still unaware they can get the vital care free-of-charge.

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ABU DHABI // Hundreds of Emiratis covered under the Thiqa national health insurance plan are missing out on vital, easily obtainable mental health care, experts have said.

Access to mental health care is available for free to Emiratis covered by Thiqa at more than 50 public and private locations.

Health authorities consider mental health care to be just as important as physical. Prathna Singh, a clinical psychologist at the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Dubai, said: “Across the world, mental illnesses may remain undetected, undiagnosed and untreated because people may have no or limited health care insurance coverage.

“Emiratis, therefore, should be encouraged to take full advantage of the cover offered by Thiqa. This can contribute to the overall holistic well-being of citizens and will allow them to come forward rather than suffer in silence with mental illness,” she said. “Untreated mental illness can have detrimental effects on the social and emotional functioning of a person, whereby their relationships, jobs, and even general health can become compromised. Early intervention and treatment by a skilled practitioner is important and can prevent such negative consequences.”

Mr Ahmed Eid Al Neyadi, director of Thiqa at the National Health Insurance Company – Daman, said: “Visits to psychiatrists and psychotherapists are covered once weekly through direct billing up to four times a month. More sessions in a week will be covered if they are part of the patient’s treatment plan. For new patients, doctor visits are covered up to six sessions a month with the same doctor to allow for a full evaluation.”

Noor, a 32-year-old patient, said: “I had no idea how easy it was to get mental health care here.

“I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist for over a year now. I don’t have to worry about payments, the direct billing takes care of it.”

Thiqa members are entitled to treatment without having to pay at most of the plan’s network of medical service providers.

Direct billing adds the convenience of not having to worry about paying eligible medical expenses up front.

Noor has struggled with depression, anxiety and mood disorders for most of her life.

“I was misdiagnosed in the past because doctors never gave me the time of day. Seeing a psychotherapist for an extensive period of time allowed me to get a proper diagnosis. I reached a breakthrough with my therapist because I was able to track all my behavioural changes and their triggers through a long assessment period.”

Mr Al Neyadi said: “Most psychiatric conditions are covered under Thiqa, including depression, anxiety, mood disorders and post-traumatic stress disorders. Marriage counselling is also covered for Thiqa members if it is conducted by a psychiatrist or a psychotherapist as part of a psychotherapy session where one or both spouses were suffering from a psychiatric condition such as depression, anxiety, etcetera.”

Neurological disorders, such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, are also covered at facilities within the Thiqa network.

As with all medications in the Thiqa plan, the costs are covered 100 per cent at public-sector pharmacies and 50 per cent at private pharmacies.

Psychiatric services come as standard in Daman’s comprehensive premier plan for non-Emiratis and in some enhanced plans offered for larger organisations, but with coverage ranging up to Dh3,500 a year only.