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  Parity in Missouri - The Time is Now

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

Mary G. Rappaport (703) 312-7886
For Immediate Release
24 Apr 97

The Missouri legislature has a unique opportunity to rectify a great wrong. For too long, people with severe mental illnesses have been denied adequate health insurance coverage. HB 335 would establish nondiscriminatory parity coverage in managed healthcare plans for major mental illnesses.

We applaud Representative Tim Harlan (D - Columbia) for attempting to validate in legislation what researchers have proven in science: mental illnesses are brain disorders and treatment works. His work will ensure that many of the 145,600 persons who in Missouri suffer from mental illness in any given year, are afforded the same basic rights as people with other physical illnesses.

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 are on the books as intolerant of insurance discrimination against people with severe mental illnesses (Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maryland, Minnesota, and most recently Indiana). It is time to give all people 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.  

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