National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Parity In New York - The Time Is Now
Statement by Laurie M. Flynn, Executive Director, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) and Glenn Liebman, Executive Director, NAMI New York State
The New York Assembly rectified a great wrong late yesterday (2/9) by passing A8315--B, "An Act to Amend the Insurance Law." The act, which passed unanimously, is a significant step in treating illnesses of the brain like illnesses of any other organ of the body.
In New York, private insurers typically provide a standard benefit limitation of 30 inpatient and 20 outpatient mental health visits per year, and an annual lifetime limit of $100,000. None of these limitations currently exist for physical illness. In addition, insurers routinely require persons with mental disorders to pay higher deductibles, co-payments, and/or co-insurance than persons with other conditions in order to access necessary treatment.
A8315--B, which applies to serious mental illness such as depression, manic depression and schizophrenia, as well as other mental, nervous or emotional disorders, stipulates that coverage for inpatient care, annual deductibles, coinsurance, co-payment requirements, and limits on annual visits and specific dollar amounts be the same for illnesses of the brain as for illnesses in the rest of the body. A8315--B was sponsored by Assemblyman James Brennan (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Mental Health Committee. It next goes for consideration to the Senate. Currently 15 states have enacted equitable health insurance laws - 9 of them last year alone.
"We applaud Rep. Brennan and the Assembly of New York for taking this step," says Laurie Flynn, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). "For too long, people with severe mental illnesses in New York have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. The Assembly this week has validated in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works."
"NAMI New York, along with a coalition of other organizations, urges the Senate and the Governor to make 1998 the year that the long-standing practice of discrimination against people with mental illness in health insurance policies is ended," said Glenn Liebman, executive director of NAMI New York State.
NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots organization solely 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 172,000 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.