Feds mandate mental health insurance changes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Feds mandate mental health insurance changes

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Sebelius Sebelius

The announcement came early Friday: the federal government will require insurance companies to cover mental health and addiction issues just like they do physical illnesses.

"This is the largest expansion of behavioral health coverage in a generation," said Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary.

It's all part of the Affordable Care Act. Before, insurance companies could cap mental health coverage, or raise co-pays. Now, that won't be the case.

Experts say the decision is a huge step forward for psychiatric care in the U.S., where 60% of the people with mental illness don't get the help they need.

"Untreated mental illnesses are just devastating in terms of the consequences they can have in people's life," said Tom Eachus of the Black Hawk-Grundy Mental Health Center in Waterloo. "From unemployment to failed relationships, early school dropouts to underemployment, the implications are huge."

According to Eachus, about half of the 6000 people they see at the Center are either uninsured, or their plans don't fully cover them.

The announcement Friday was the last step of a 2008 ruling for mental health parity, and Eachus said it could be a big difference for area patients and their families.

"This legislation just opens up a whole new world of opportunities for people who have mental health problems and addiction disorders in the United States," he said.

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