Starting July 1st, Iowa law will require insurance companies to cover treatment for seven “biologically-based” mental illnesses just like they cover physical illnesses. The Iowa Senate gave final approval to the new mandate Tuesday afternoon and Governor Tom Vilsack quickly called reporters into his office to say he’d sign the legislation into law. “This is a significant step forward in progress on behalf of those who suffer from mental illness,” Vilsack says. The governor says hopefully more Iowans will see their lives improve because they’ll get help, sooner and more comprehensively. Advocates for the mentally ill have been seeking the legislation for about a decade. Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson has been among those Pederson says there will be some who aren’t happy or satisfied with the bill because it does not force insurance companies to cover things like substance abuse treatment or post-traumatic stress disorder, but Pederson says it’s a good first step. Senator Maggie Tinsman, a Republican from Bettendorf, says it’s only fair. Tinsman says the economy is hit when mental illnesses go untreated because workers are less productive, or skip work altogether. She says mental illness is more common than cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Senator Steve Warnstadt, a Democrat from Sioux City, says 46 other states have taken steps to ensure the mentally ill aren’t discriminated against in insurance. Warnstadt says the state doesn’t allow insurance companies to bar coverage for diabetes, and it’s time to make sure mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, depression and obsessive/compulsive disorder get treated. The other illnesses that’ll be covered by the new law are schizophrenia, pervasive development disorder, and autism. Warnstadt says insurance rates should not rise. He says the bill was crafted in consultation with the insurance industry to make sure premiums would go up minimally and as many people as possible would get the new coverage.
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