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Iowa Among Worst In Mental Health

October 10, 2018
Emmetsburg News

(Editor's note: this is part one in a series regarding the state of mental health care in Iowa.)

Submitted Article

As you may be aware, Wednesday, October 3rd marked the tenth anniversary of the Parity Act, which requires parity for coverage of mental health and drug addiction treatment - combatting insurance discrimination against persons with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.

We need to understand what parity means with regard to mental health. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, also known as the Federal Parity Law, requires insurers to cover illnesses of the brain, such as depression or addiction, no more restrictively than illnesses of the body, such as diabetes or cancer. Some states model promising policies for monitoring and enforcing this law that other states can consider implementing.

To take stock of states' progress in enforcing the law, The Kennedy Forum, an organization working toward implementing lasting change in the way mental health and addictions are treated in our healthcare system, released a report on state parity statutes finding that Iowa scored a 50 out of a possible 100 points - among the worst in the nation at promoting mental health care parity.

According to Mental Health America's State of Mental Health in America 2018 report, Iowa has 1 in 11 adults with mental illness currently uninsured, and 1 in 12 youths have private insurance that doesn't cover mental health.

The American Medical Association (AMA) and others have called on state and federal policymakers to enforce the Parity Act's provisions to help end the opioid epidemic in particular, as an overwhelming number of people needing treatment for an addiction are not receiving it.

"As you continue covering health care issues, the AMA or a physician on the front lines of mental health care and addiction in Iowa would be happy to discuss progress and what remains to be done in order to make treatment accessible for everyone, especially those with a substance use disorder who currently aren't receiving treatment.

"Ten years ago, policymakers came together to address shortcomings in the way care was provided for those with mental health and/or substance use disorders," said AMA President-elect Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, who also chairs the AMA Opioid Task Force. "The law's much-needed reforms improved opportunities for care and reduced the stigma of having a mental health or substance use disorder. Yet, an overwhelming number of people needing treatment for an addiction are not receiving it. Clearly, we have a long way to go."

The 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 92 percent, or 19.7 million people, with a substance use disorder receive no treatment, and 57 percent, or 46.6 million people, with a mental illness receive no treatment.

"As we strive to improve access to care and reverse the effects of the opioid epidemic, insurers need to be held accountable for complying with their legal obligations," Dr. Harris said. "This means that health insurance companies must have addiction medicine and psychiatric physicians not only in the network but accepting new patients."

Mental Health Care and Addiction Treatment have always been subjects that are not talked. Not too long ago the subject was considered taboo. If a member of your family was in a mental institution, you didn't talk about them.

Insurance companies need to be made aware that as citizens and customers it will not be tolerated and pushed to the back.



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