In Iowa, the burden of mental health care is often shouldered by individual counties. As such, each county is tasked with handling these issues as they see fit. Iowa is home to 99 different counties, meaning that the definition of coverage can be radically different from county to county. Who can receive care, and the type of care they are eligible for, is subject to the whims of the local budget. This system has existed for several years, but now state legislators are considering making changes.
Many citizens regard the current system as unfair, arguing that penalizing people suffering from mental health issues is unreasonable. Lawmakers are debating a new bill that will expand the state’s insurance program, giving more people the opportunity to receive coverage and transfer the financial burden to the state. While the legislation has relatively few opponents, there are some issues with the current system that could prove difficult to change.
Iowa’s definition of mental health falls in line with the federal concept, which categories mental problems as fundamentally different than other medical problems. Because of this, the federal government has traditionally been the one to provide care for the mentally ill, separating them from the rest of society in a number of asylums all over the country. This changed over time, but many states, Iowa included, have been slow to update their model for mental health care.
State legislators are keen on seeing reform, a notion supported by insurance companies and health professionals. Reform will not be easy, however, as it requires changing the way the state defines mental illness. The only alternative seems to be leaving a large number of the state’s residents without appropriate insurance coverage, which is being dismissed as unacceptable.