Product Solutions
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  • September 2023
  • 3 minutes

RGA Global Mental Health Survey Part II: Product Development

  • Leigh Allen
  • Erin Crump
  • Emma Hickey
  • Peter Barrett
  • Dr. Peter Farvolden
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In Brief

This is the second article of a four-part series that will also include an overview and articles exploring the survey’s implications for underwriting and claims. For more information, view the survey infographic and full survey report

From January to April 2023, RGA conducted a global mental health survey that included 17 qualitative interviews with life and health insurance companies followed by an online quantitative survey with 137 respondents. Survey findings highlight current insurer activities regarding mental health initiatives and outline how leading insurers are positioning mental health within their strategic priorities. This article is Part Two of a four-part series that includes a survey overview and will include articles on specific implications for underwriting and claims. 

Findings from RGA’s recent global survey on mental health reflected this new reality, with 57% of life and health insurer respondents reporting higher demand for mental health-related products and services among their policyholders during the past two years.

The survey also made clear that insurers fully intend to address this need: 85% of respondents indicated that at their companies, mental health is a top or moderate priority. However, a sizable gap remains between intent and action: only about half of respondents (51%) agreed that customers can buy adequate cover for mental health in their market, and 33% said the demand for mental health cover is underserved by current offerings.

These trends point toward a remarkable opportunity for life insurance companies to bridge the mental health coverage gap by broadening available options in existing products and developing new products with stronger mental health cover options. 

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RGA's 2023 Global Mental Health Survey provides insights into insurers' current offerings and initiatives related to mental health and a unique view of where the industry may be headed.

Opportunity is Knocking

Many of the respondents indicated they see more opportunity for insurers to support mental health initiatives by improving access to services; enhancing protection coverage for mental health conditions; participating in advocacy, education, and research; and adapting underwriting practices to expand eligibility for mental illness or issues.

Company leaders may also need to ensure that their commitment to mental health coverage filters down to their product development departments. According to the survey, only 40% of respondents in product development roles indicated mental health as a top or moderate priority at their companies, versus 100% of health and wellness program management and strategy roles and 94% of those in claims functions.

Companies have started implementing changes in response to the growing need. About half of survey respondents said they had updated underwriting guidelines during the pandemic in order to increase access to mental health cover, and we noted some improvements in claims management of mental health related cases. However, only 27% actually launched any new mental-health-related products and services in the last two years. Looking ahead, only 23% of respondents indicated plans to enhance existing cover, remove exclusions, and/or develop new products or services in the next two years.

The respondents that did improve offerings did so primarily through the addition of value-added mental health services. Providing access to mental health services is a gap we repeatedly heard that insurers are well positioned to fill. The additional services offered included: expanded or accelerated access to virtual mental health care, provision of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) or behavioral health platforms, and pharmacogenetic testing.

Others added new or additional protection coverage for mental health treatment or conditions, and some enhanced critical illness products with an optional mental health module that incorporates a lump sum payout rider for such diagnoses. Participants also expanded reimbursement for mental health treatments, including broadened eligible practitioner types for counseling benefits, and mental health programs such as iCBT. 

Open the Door

The opportunity for insurers to develop new protection products and coverages for mental health conditions is significant and worth pursuing.

To support this pursuit, insurers could strengthen their mental health expertise by adding psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health nurses/nurse practitioners to their medical staffs. Despite prevalence of mental health conditions and the increasing demand for products and services, only 50% of survey respondents globally reported using a mental health specialist to support the business or initiatives.

In a recent Inside RGA Q&A, Dr. Peter Farvolden, RGA's Mental Health Consultant, talks about his research into personality and temperament, why he is fascinated by the intersection of insurance and mental health, and more.

As with most risk strategies, one size cannot fit all. Insurers readily acknowledge there are significant challenges to developing or enhancing protection products for mental health. The costs and controls needed to include and manage these risks vary by market, and incorporate underwriting and claims management challenges, condition definition, and availability of reliable data for pricing.

Bottom line: mental health is a real and growing need. Social attitudes have shifted in ways that make this increasingly imperative, and insurers globally are stepping up and making tangible progress to provide enhanced cover and services for mental health.

Contact us to learn more about survey insights and how RGA is helping insurers meet the growing demand for mental health coverage.

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Meet the Authors & Experts

Leign Allen
Leigh Allen
Associate Vice President, Strategic Survey Research, Global Actuarial Pricing and Research 
Erin Crump
Erin Crump
Vice President Business Initiatives, RGA International Re
Emma Wilkins
Emma Hickey
Vice President, Digital Health and Propositions, Global Health
Peter Barrett
Peter Barrett
Senior Vice President and Global Head Underwriting, Claims and Medical
Dr. Peter Farvolden
Dr. Peter Farvolden
Mental Health Consultant