A House committee today (Thursday) will debate a bill that would force insurance companies to cover treatment for “biologically based” mental illnesses. Representative Danny Carroll, a republican from Grinnell, says he’ll try to convince fellow committee members that biologically-based mental illnesses should be covered by an insurance policy just as any other physical illness or malady. Carroll says people will be surprised to learn that the new mandate for insurance coverage outlined in the bill will only affect about one-fourth of Iowans who have medical insurance. Three-quarters of insured Iowans already have coverage for mental health treatment in their plan, or their insurance policy is regulated by federal rather than state law. Earlier this week, democratic senators said they’d favor requiring insurance companies to cover not only mental health treatment, but substance abuse counseling and treatment for people who have eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia. Carroll says that would be a mistake. “To the extent that you load up those mandates on health care providers, you’ll drive up the cost and then fewer people will have access to any health care coverage at all,” Carroll says. “You can go too far and end up doing more harm than good.” Carroll says you’ve got to be careful that new state regulations don’t drive the cost of health insurance too high, pricing it out of reach for some consumers and over the line for employers who decide to quit providing health care insurance for their workers.
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