Siouxland mental health therapists push for continued telehealth services

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Telehealth services have played a crucial role during the pandemic, but what insurance companies are willing to pay for those services may be changing.

Before the pandemic, most insurance plans didn’t cover telehealth services, those costs were out of pocket.

Since the pandemic, most plans regulated by the Iowa Insurance Division fully cover telehealth visits.

Mental health therapists said they hope a bill before the Iowa Senate will keep insurance companies paying for those services.

Dr. Robin Capers is a clinical social worker at Family Wellness Associates.

She’s hoping telehealth visits will continue to be covered after the pandemic.

“I think what happened during the pandemic is it allowed us to uncover how important mental health is and all the different areas that are not covered,” Dr. Robin Capers said.

Dr. Capers said state legislators need to focus more attention on mental health.

“The benefit of any help that we could get from the government would be just to continue to allow us to do telehealth and to continue to serve the community and help people that are unable to get to us,” Dr. Robin Capers added.

Like Mitzi Ehlers and her family.

“That was the only lifeline we really had. We didn’t have access to meetings. We didn’t have access to in-person therapy,” Mitzi Ehlers said.

Ehlers said telehealth gives her family a fighting chance.

“My children are in foster care two hours away. This is going to enable us to do some family therapy via telehealth. It also enables us to connect when we normally couldn’t. We can work towards putting our family back together. We’re talking about fixing broken families,” said Ehlers.

Dr. Capers said telehealth is a crucial tool in providing mental health help during a pandemic but she said insurance companies should be forced to cover telehealth services permanently.

“We should have done this a long time ago. We should have always had telehealth. I think of rural Iowa. There are people who don’t have services close enough,” Dr. Capers said.

Dr. Capers says if 100% reimbursement rates for telehealth visits expire, she expects cancelations and business to decline. She said more importantly, it will impact people who can no longer afford virtual mental health help.

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