A bill that would force insurance companies to cover “biologically-based” mental illnesses has cleared the Iowa House. Democrats tried but failed to get the bill to also force insurers to cover eating disorders. Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a democrat from Ames, says the finances of many families suffer when young women are diagnosed with anorexia or bulimia. “Many of these families have had to take a second mortage on their house or dip into retirement savings because the medical care necessary is not covered by a health insurance policy,” Wessel-Kroeschell says. Representative Vicki Lensing, a democrat from Iowa City, says the bill would not cover attention deficit or hyperactivity disorder, anxiety or panic disorders. “This bill falls far short of treating some of those conditions that our friends and family members struggle with,” Lensing says. Representative Pam Jochum, a democrat from Dubuque, wanted the bill to cover substance abuse treatment, too, and she was unwilling to support the smaller-scale proposal. “I’ve heard it too many times here — ‘It’s a start. It’s a step in the right direction. We’ll take care of it again later…and later has never come,” Jochum says. But Representative Danny Carroll, a republican from Grinnell, says the bill is limited for a reason, because forcing insurers to cover more illnesses would increase premium costs even more. Carroll says if legislators aren’t careful, insurance costs would go even higher, prompting some businesses to either drop coverage for their workers or require those workers to pay higher deductibles or co-payments. “Those respected members who were critical of the bill and asked you to vote no didn’t talk about how many people would go without any health coverage whatsoever because the cost became so great that the employer would discontinued the coverage, period,” Carroll says. The bill passed the House last night on a 74-to-24 vote. It now goes to the Senate for its consideration.
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