Iowa House approves bills addressing ‘redlining,’ mental health payment parity

Tray Ling

DES MOINES — They may not have been the stuff of campaign flyers, but the Iowa House approved — mostly on bipartisan votes — more than 20 pieces of legislation Monday ranging from updating the probate code, reimbursement costs for transporting bodies for autopsies and non-ambulatory deer hunting. The House […]

DES MOINES — They may not have been the stuff of campaign flyers, but the Iowa House approved — mostly on bipartisan votes — more than 20 pieces of legislation Monday ranging from updating the probate code, reimbursement costs for transporting bodies for autopsies and non-ambulatory deer hunting.

The House also addressed the still lingering impact of mortgage redlining in Iowa cities and payment parity for mental health services delivered to rural Iowans.

Using data made available by the University of Richmond, Rep. Dustin Hite, R-New Sharon, cited examples of redlining — the practice of not making home mortgages in areas where Blacks and other minorities lived.

In a Waterloo neighborhood around a John Deere plant “the type of inhabitant is mixed. Scalability is not good,” according to historical records. In Davenport, the federal government said about an area: “It is a very undesirable residential section. No loans will be made here. It is occupied mostly by laboring people in the industrial plants, and there always is a big turnover in rentals. It is a sort of a melting pot.”

Evidence also showed redlining practices in Des Moines, Dubuque, Council Bluffs and Sioux City, Hite said.

Hite described House File 626 as an attempt to address the consequences of the federal government’s lending policies in those historically redlined neighborhoods. It allows a city or county to allow the property taxes in those areas to be abated over a 15-year period if the owner can prove they invested 30 percent of the property’s value in improvements. It would apply only to owner-occupied residences.

“My goal with this legislation is to help the homeowner to invest their own money, in their own neighborhoods,” Hite said.

The bill, which now goes to the Senate, was approved 96-0.

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The House also approved HF 294 to require health insurance companies to make reimbursement for mental health services provided via telehealth on the same basis and at the same rate as they would for services provided in person. Ten states have similar language in their codes.

“Over the course of the past year with COVID-19 we have learned the importance of telehealth and its ability to provide health care to Iowans across the state regardless of where they live,” said. Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola.

He speculated the bill will improve and increases the availability of mental health services across Iowa, especially in rural areas.

We have been working over the past number of years to bring high-quality health care, to retain high-quality health care in Iowa,” Fry said. “This will specifically help with our mental health care providers in rural Iowa.”

HF 294, which Rep. Kristin Sunde, D-West Des Moines, called it a “great bill … very good for Iowa,” was approved 95-1.

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