Hundreds of mental health patients learned this week that their doctors are leaving. There’s concern that some of those 1,800 patients may not find a back-up plan.
Psychiatrists in Iowa receive less reimbursement per patient than in almost every other state.
That payment disparity has prompted several psychiatrists at one clinic to take jobs elsewhere.
Their patients say they feel abandoned.
Brenna Williams, Judy Ellenberger and Jeanie Hudson met in group therapy and say spending time together is like group therapy.
“They`ve become my golden girls,” Jeanie remarked.
Jeanie and Brenna are bi-polar.
The day Jeanie’s bi-polar disorder became more complicated was the day she learned her son had been killed in Iraq.
He was the tenth casualty from Iowa.
It was a result of that loss that her psychiatrist diagnosed Jeanie with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I was afraid to leave my home. While I would never kill myself, I wanted God to take me home. I wanted, I just didn`t want to live anymore,” Jeanie said.
Brenna and Judy have been a huge support for Jeanie. But after they got a letter in the mail this week, the women fear that each other is all they have left.
“My doctor said, ‘you know part of his reasoning was that Obamacare has just made too many cutbacks, the reimbursements, only a small portion is getting to the doctors,’” Breanna said.
The letter from Mercy Behavioral Health asks them to “begin making decisions regarding the transition of your care now,” because, “all clinic services… will end August 29th.”
Brenna assumed the Affordable Care Act would make it easier, even cheaper to get the treatment and medication she needs.
“But it`s not, but it`s not doing it. We know another doctor that has said he would not advise younger people to go into medicine because of what the government`s doing,” Breanna said.
The women have anxieties about finding a new doctor to trust, one who understands their history and medications. But mostly, they worry about the 1,800 people who received the letter who may not seek out another doctor.
Along with the letter, patients received a list of options, 20 local care providers, but the women say those psychiatrists are overrun and that it will take months to be seen.
“I interpret that as if I had a physical problem, this wouldn`t have happened, but because I have a psychological problem, they want to cut me loose,” Jeannie said.
Jeanie has a good reason to feel that way because in 1996, Congress passed a law that requires states to treat mental health patients the same as people who have a physical ailment.
But according to a Mercy spokesperson, Iowa lawmakers never got on board with fully implementing that rule.