Press Releases

The National Alliance For The Mentally Ill Calls For Parity In Massachusetts

Tells State Legislature To Act Before Clock Runs Out

Jul 28 1998

Arlington, VA - NAMI today called on the Massachusetts legislature to enact a health insurance parity bill before the session ends on Friday.

“Time is running out,” said NAMI Executive Director Laurie Flynn. “Both sides of the legislature have passed a parity bill unanimously. This legislation is a vital step towards ending health insurance discrimination suffered by thousands of Massachusetts residents. We urge legislators to do what’s right and reconcile the differences between the bills before the legislative clock runs out.”

S2165, which passed unanimously in the Massachusetts Senate on April 2nd, would amend the Massachusetts insurance laws so that mental illness is covered in the same way as other biologically based diseases. H5470, which included parity as one provision of a managed care bill, passed unanimously in the House on July 27th. The two sides of the legislature must now reconcile their differences.

Acting Governor Paul Cellucci has indicated he will sign a health insurance parity bill, if only the legislature will pass one. Massachusetts is the only state in New England that does not have such legislation in place. In all, 19 states have now enacted such laws.

"It is ironic that Massachusetts, home to world-class hospitals and site of some of the most impressive scientific breakthroughs in the understanding of mental illness, continues to lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to health insurance coverage," said Flynn. "It is time for the Bay State's out-of-date insurance system to reflect what science has already proven time and again: Mental illnesses are biologically based disorders and that treatment for diseases such as depression, manic depression and schizophrenia are often just as effective as those for heart disease and cancer."

In total, 19 states have enacted laws that prohibit health insurance discrimination against people with mental illness: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont. In addition, Ohio and Kansas now provide parity for state employees, but not by law.

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.