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Miller-Meeks: Psychiatrist Shortage Among Pressing Health Care Issues Needing Serious Attention

Press Release

Location: Ottumwa, IA

Responding to a newspaper report about a shortage of psychiatrists across the state, congressional candidate Marianette Miller-Meeks today noted her support for mental health insurance parity and a more fair distribution of federal health dollars.

Citing a Des Moines Sunday Register story that indicated a shortage of psychiatrists in six of the 15 counties in the Second Congressional District and a number of other counties through Iowa, Miller-Meeks said she would continue to advocate for solutions.

"The shortage of psychiatrists is one of the issues I've addressed along with other health care professionals in previous trips to Congress," the Ottumwa ophthalmologist said. "The problem was so severe in my community, that I voluntarily organized a Physician Recruitment and Retention task force and committee in Ottumwa in 2004. I facilitated a number of meetings with the medical staff and hospital board members and we put together and followed an action plan that worked."

As a result of that task force, the community was able to recruit four psychiatrists and re-open its closed inpatient mental health unit, which is the only one serving an eight-county area.

"We need representatives in Washington who will roll up its sleeves, work with people they are supposed to serve and make things great things happen," Miller-Meeks said. "That's the type of pro-active leadership I'll provide in Congress, too."

Miller-Meeks also made Iowa's physician-shortage problem a major focus of her presidency of the Iowa Medical Society in 2006-2007 and resulted in the Iowa Medical Society Healthcare Taskforce which released its findings and recommendations last month.

"This shortage is a direct result of flawed Medicaid reimbursement policies that put Iowa at a clear disadvantage in retaining its medical school graduates and nurses through lower pay and increasing workloads," she said. "With mental health disorders on the rise as families disintegrate, addictions increase and inpatient treatment is unavailable, we can anticipate additional social and economic strains. By making resources available to help recruit more physicians and psychiatrists to practice here in Iowa, we can help to make sure that those who need care get proper treatment."

She added, "I've long been an advocate for issues such as mental health parity, which I am glad is finally gaining traction. However, we should all be concerned about the problems facing our health care system generated by poor policies on the federal level, especially the geographic disparity in Medicare funding and Medicaid reimbursement. The answer is not more government regulation of health care. In Congress, I will work every day to create real solutions to this issue and others facing the Second District and the rest of the country."

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