Mental health patients, their families and other advocates want a new law forcing insurance companies to provide coverage for mental health treatment. Paula McMannus, a nurse in Des Moines, sees patients who need help, but don’t get it because their insurance won’t cover it.McMannus says treatment for many mental illnesses is just as effective as, say, treatment for a broken bone — but insurance will pay for a cast, not for the drugs that treat mental illnesses.Representative Betty Grundberg of Des Moines tried last year to get a “mental health parity” bill passed through the legislature. Grundberg says close to 20-percent of the people in prison have mental illness. She says it’s expensive to lock them up instead of treating them so they can be out, making money, and paying taxes.Thirty-two states have adopted laws which force insurance companies to provide expanded coverage for mental illness or substance abuse treatment.Governor Vilsack supports such a move. He says it’ll save government money that’s spent treating people who get even sicker, or end up committing a crime because of their illness.
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