National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Statement by Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI)

Contact: Melissa Saunders Katz (703) 516-7963
Mary G. Rappaport (703) 312-7886
April 16, 1997

The Delaware legislature has the unique opportunity to rectify a great wrong. For too long, people with severe mental illnesses have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. The state of Delaware has the ability to validate in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works.

We applaud Representatives Jane Maroney (R – 10th) and Pam Maier (R – 21st) and Senator Patricia Blevins (D – 7th) for introducing a parity amendment today that will ensure coverage for mental illness equal to that provided for physical disorders. We whole-heartedly support the letter and spirit of the proposed legislation:

It is a vital state government function to protect persons with mental health conditions and disorders from discriminatory insurance practices by providing a mechanism that assures the same terms and conditions of insurance coverage for both mental health conditions and physical illnesses and diseases [HB156 "An Act to Amend Title 18 of the Delaware Code Relating to Health Insurance"].

Ending discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses is not only the right thing to do, but evidence is mounting that it is affordable. A study of New Hampshire insurance companies by the Lewin Group found that the state’s parity law did not cause an increase in premiums after it was implemented.

Currently, eight states have laws that end insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses (Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas, and most recently Colorado). It is time to give all people equal access to insurance coverage.

NAMI is the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to improving the lives of persons with severe mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), major depression, and anxiety disorders. NAMI has more than 140,000 individual members and 1,140 state and local affiliates in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Canada. NAMI’s efforts focus on support to persons with serious brain disorders and to their families; advocacy for nondiscriminatory and equitable federal and state policies; research into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for brain disorders; and education to eliminate the pervasive stigma toward severe mental illnesses.