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 7, 1997

The Massachusetts legislature has a unique opportunity to rectify a great wrong. As the Joint Standing Committee on Insurance considers parity legislation, Massachusetts could put an end to insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses. Massachusetts can join three of its New England neighbors (Maine, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island) -- as well as three other states (Maryland, Minnesota, and Colorado) -- in their intolerance of discrimination.

This legislation would provide insurance coverage for mental illness equal to that for all other physical disorders. At present, many health insurance policies in Massachusetts unjustly limit inpatient coverage for mental illness and require patients to pay 50 percent of the cost of an outpatient appointment. Comparatively, for other illnesses, inpatient coverage is far less restricted and co-payments are 20 percent or less. This is discrimination, pure and simple.

It is ironic that insurance discrimination remains in place in Massachusetts, the home of McLean Hospital and Massachusetts General, where many insights into brain disorders have been uncovered. It is time to validate in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works. It is time to give all patients equal access and 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.