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June 14, 2005

Insurance forced to cover Mental Illness

Iowa has signed a new state law that will force insurance companies to provide coverage for mental illness. "Under the law, which was signed by Gov. Tom Vilsack last month, businesses with 50 or more employees that provide health insurance for workers must also cover treatment of biologically based mental illnesses. Those include schizophrenia, major depression, bipolar disorder, schizo-affective disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorders, pervasive development and autistic disorders. Not included are eating disorders, substance abuse and attention deficit disorders. Iowa joins 46 other states that have adopted some type of mental health parity law" (The Associated Press, June 6, 2005).

The effect that this law will have on those with mental illness in Iowa is undeniable. Finally their insurance companies will be held accountable for illnesses that are just severe as the more accepted kinds, such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's. This also makes sure that mental illness will not be ignored any time soon.

Some worry that this will drive up insurance rates to the point of them not being offered by many businesses. But this is a threat that businesses have made in the past and hopefully has no basis in reality. If businesses stopped offering insurance coverage many people would look for jobs elsewhere or they would create such an uproar that the business would likely receive a lot of negative media coverage. Neither of these things benefit businesses in the slightest.

This law will probably benefit businesses in the long run. "Jim Collison, of Mason City, is the president of Employers of America, a national association for employers that has its headquarters in Mason City. He said employees who suffer from untreated mental health issues are less productive and more likely to have a higher rate of absenteeism. 'Any employer who doesn't understand this hasn't caught up with the 21st century,' he said" (The Associated Press, June, 6, 2005). By having mental health coverage for employees, more people will gain access to the mental health care that they need and deserve. Improving the mental health of employees can only result in good things for the companies that provide coverage for them.

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