Advocates for the mentally ill came to the capitil to renew their call for broader insurance coverage. Judy Meyers has learned how to navigate Iowa’s mental-health care system. Her mother used to be a teacher and came down with schizophrenia, lost her job and her husband — Meyers says while Medicare now covers her elderly mother, there were times in her life when she had no insurance coverage. Meyers is director of the Black Hawk County chapter of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, a group that lobbies lawmakers to make insurance companies cover mental illness the same way they cover physical ailments.”Fair is fair,” says Meyers, citing cases where policies limited a patient’s stay in a hospital or simply didn’t cover mental health at all or charged the patient a much higher co-pay than for other, physical diseases. Meyers points out mental illness is nothing but “a brain disease.” Meyers says denying mental-health coverage severely limits the lives of people who live with a mental illness. She says they can’t get off the welfare rolls to take a job because they won’t have coverage, and she says she’s among the relatives people forced to stay on SSI, Supplemental Security Income, because of current insurance regulations. Meyers cites studies from other states that made insurance companies cover mental illness, saying their healthcare premiums went up by only about one-percent. The Iowa legislature’s considered the mental-health parity issue for a couple of years but failed to approve it.
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