Iowa Law Mandates Mental Health Coverage

May 6, 2005 ( - Iowa Governor Thomas Vilsack has signed into law a bill mandating that companies providing workplace health care policies also provide coverage for treatment of seven biologically based mental illnesses.

House File 420 specifies the ailments to be covered as schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, major depressive disorders, schizo-affective disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, pervasive developmental disorders and autistic disorders.   The bill covers companies with more than 50 workers and is effective January 1, 2006.

“We have talked about mental health parity in this state for a number of years and this is a significant step forward for those who suffer from mental illness,” Vilsack said in  a Web site statement“A major responsibility of this state is to provide health security for Iowans, especially those most vulnerable. There will be Iowans today and over the course of the next several years whose lives will be improved as a result of this legislation. Hopefully, more will receive help sooner and more comprehensively as a result of this legislation”

Lieutenant Governor Sally Pederson added: “So many Iowans quietly suffer because of mental illness and they suffer further because their disease has been treated differently in the eyes of lawmakers and insurance companies. Today, those Iowans can be hopeful and demand that they be treated fairly so that they can be more productive members of Iowa’s economy and Iowa’s communities.”

>Under the bill, group policies, contracts or plans cannot impose an aggregate annual or lifetime limit on biologically based mental illness coverage benefits unless they impose such limits on substantially all health, medical, and surgical coverage benefits. Policies that do place limits on their health, medical, and surgical coverage benefits cannot place greater limits on their mental illness coverage benefits.

>HF 420 also stipulates that group policies, contracts, or plans that offer mental health coverage benefits must provide at least 30 inpatient days and 52 outpatient visits annually. The benefits may include deductibles, coinsurance, and co-payments but their amounts and extent must be the same as those applicable to health, medical or surgery benefits offered by the policies.